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Court Continues to Uphold Core of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act

Secretary of State

 

Court Upholds Ballot Harvesting Ban and Drop Box Security Provisions; Upholds Line Warming Ban Within 150 ft of Polling Place; Bans Counties from Rejecting Absentee Ballots for Improper Date of Birth

Atlanta- Today, a federal judge upheld key portions of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, including provisions that ban ballot harvesting and require common sense security rules for absentee ballot drop boxes. The court also found that Georgia’s ban on giving away food, drinks, or gifts remained valid within 150 feet of the polling place, but not outside 150 feet from the polling place. In a novel and broad reading of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the court also banned counties from rejecting absentee ballots with an improper date of birth, even though Georgia law already allowed voters an opportunity to correct any mistakes on their absentee ballot.

The court ruled against the ACLU and other activist groups in their attempt to allow ballot harvesting and remove absentee ballot drop box security provisions. The ACLU and others had claimed that these provisions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Georgia continues to have one of the most secure and accessible voting systems in the country for all voters, including voters with disabilities,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “I am glad that the court upheld Georgia’s common sense rules banning ballot harvesting and securing absentee ballot drop boxes. Georgia’s voting system is accessible to all voters, with multiple options for voters to choose how they want to exercise their right to vote.”

In a novel and broad interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that is being used by activists around the country to try to overturn long-standing election security provisions, the Court found that Georgia counties cannot reject absentee ballots with an improper date of birth, despite the fact that Georgia law already allows voters to cure any such discrepancies prior to their ballot being rejected.

“Georgia has one of the best absentee ballot systems in the country. We have no excuse absentee ballots, with voters verified with photo ID and who are given an opportunity to cure any discrepancy prior to their ballot being rejected. It’s a system that works well. Today, in a misguided opinion, a federal judge ruled that using a voter’s date of birth to help verify that it is actually the voter who is returning the ballot violates the Civil Rights Act. Verifying that a voter who is not present is actually the person who cast the ballot is one of the most difficult and important things that local election officials are asked to do. An unelected federal judge taking a tool out of local election official’s toolbox to accomplish this important job is the wrong decision, especially when that toolbox was working well for Georgia voters. I’m afraid that this decision will have unintended consequences, which is why elected federal judges should leave the legislating to legislators should make policy decisions instead of unelected judges. I expect today’s decision will be appealed and that the state law will be upheld in the end,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Georgia law bans giving food, drink, or gifts to voters while they are waiting in line to vote. A federal judge upheld that provision of Georgia law for conduct within 150 feet of a polling place, but struck it down more than 150 feet away from a polling place. This ruling should have limited effect because due to other provisions of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act and good work by county election officials, a line to vote should not be that long. According to data from counties collected by the Georgia Secretary of State, average wait time on Election Day in November 2022 was 2 minutes and 19 seconds and average wait time on Election Day for the December 2022 Runoff was 1 minute and 45 seconds. Georgia law that bans giving things of value in exchange for voting or for voting for a particular candidate remain in place.

“Due to the good work that both the state and county election officials have done to ensure short lines for voters, this decision should have limited effect,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.” I am grateful that the ban on giving things of value to voters remains in place within 150 feet of the polling place. All voters should have the right to cast their vote in peace without being subject to potentially unwanted solicitations.”

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Georgia is recognized as a national leader in elections. It was the first state in the country to implement the trifecta of automatic voter registration, at least 17 days of early voting (which has been called the “gold standard”), and no-excuse absentee voting. Georgia continues to set records for voter turnout and election participation, seeing the largest increase in average turnout of any other state in the 2018 midterm election and record turnout in 2020, and 2022. 2022 achieved the largest single day of in-person early voting turnout in Georgia midterm history utilizing Georgia’s secure, paper ballot voting system. Most recently, Georgia ranked #1 for Election Integrity by the Heritage Foundation, a top ranking for Voter Accessibility by the Center for Election Innovation & Research and tied for number one in Election Administration by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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