Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: New lawsuit challenges Gwinnett rejection of absentee ballots


The 2018 race for governor in Georgia could soon become one of the most litigated in state history.

The AJC reported Monday that a large number of absentee ballots rejected by Gwinnett County election officials:

Across Georgia, less than 2 percent of absentee ballots have been rejected. Gwinnett accounts for about 37 percent of all rejected ballots in Georgia.

And you know that one federal lawsuit had already been filed last week, challenging the state’s “exact match” policy that has resulted in 53,000 voter registrations placed in a “pending” category because information submitted didn’t precisely match that contained in Social Security or the state’s driver's license data banks.

Yet another lawsuit was filed Monday, also in U.S. District Court, this time challenging the handling of those absentee ballots in Gwinnett. Named in the suit: Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is now the Republican nominee for governor; the state election board; and the Gwinnett County election board.

Among the new lawsuit’s claims:

[T]he State of Georgia’s Election Code creates unusual hardships and risks for voters choosing to vote by mail ballot. The penalty for even the smallest clerical error or a question about the voter’s signature is disenfranchisement, with no meaningful opportunity to cure any perceived discrepancy.

Mail ballots are frequently rejected because of a perceived signature discrepancy — a determination that can be made by election staff without signature analysis training on a subjective and arbitrary basis without oversight of supervisors or of authorized poll watchers appointed by political parties and candidates.

Another common discrepancy is the unintentional voter error of dating the oath with the current date rather than the required date of birth. The consequence of making such an understandable human error is a presumption by the reviewing official that the vote is fraudulent voter, with the result that the ballot is deemed void.

The suit notes Gwinnett’s history of rejecting absentee ballots:

[I]n the 2016 general election, Gwinnett County rejected l,196 of timely received mailed ballots out of the 20,120 timely mailed ballots cast, a 6% rejection rate. In the May 2018 primary, Gwinnett County rejected 8% of timely received mailed ballots. Through October 12, 2018, Gwinnett County has rejected 9.6% of the 4,063 mail ballots received. Morgan County, by contrast, has rejected only 3 mail ballots, or 2.7%, of the 111 mail ballots received. The State’s most populous county, Fulton, had rejected no mail ballots as of October 12, 2018.

The lawsuit asks for a judicial order tightening, controls over signatures judged to be questionable, and disallowing absentee ballot rejections because of “solely because of an incorrect or missing year of birth,” which the plaintiffs argue is “completely irrelevant.”

Read a copy of the entire filing here, or scroll through it below:

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Here’s something you don’t see very much in political ads these days: A call for civility. That’s U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s strategy in the Republican’s first re-election spot of the year. The 30-second ad opens like countless others we’ve seen from other GOP lawmakers this cycle, celebrating the party’s tax cuts and the booming economy.

Then pivots to the two-term Cassville Republican standing on a baseball field not unlike the northern Virginia one where he and other GOP lawmakers were practicing in June 2017 when the 66-year old James Hodgkinson started shooting

“I learned something more important on a field like this one when a madman opened fire on me and some of my colleagues,” Loudermilk says in the ad, which began airing on local cable stations Monday. “Standing for your values is important, but it must be done with civility. Love your neighbor, and treat them the way you want to be treated. I try to live by those principles every day.”

Watch it here:

Loudermilk faces low-frequency opposition this year from Democrat Flynn Broady, a prosecutor in the Cobb County solicitor general's office, who has struggled to raise much money in the deeply red 11th District, which includes Bartow, Cherokee and parts of Cobb and Fulton counties.

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As of Sept. 30, Democrat Lindy Miller reported raising just over $1 million in her race against Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton for a seat on the state Public Service Commission. She had $443,063 in cash on hand, which means this first TV ad of hers is likely to get some play:

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Republican incumbent Chris Carr is out with his first 30-second TV spot in the race for attorney general. It’s a face-to-camera affair, invoking the names of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, whom Carr served as chief of staff, and Gov. Nathan Deal, who named Carr as head of the state Department of Economic Development.

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We told you how Stacey Abrams made state history by marching in the Atlanta Pride Parade on Sunday. Over at ProjectQ, Patrick Saunders has compiled a lengthy list of the other politicians who participated in the event, including most Democratic candidates for statewide office. Check it out here. 

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Georgia Democrats have a new thread in the race for governor. The party is hosting a conference call this morning to highlight Hart AgStrong’s use of federal stimulus money. Republican Brian Kemp was a key investor in the struggling business.

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Then there’s a Georgia Democratic party’s idea that might be a little more expensive. This flyer is going out to Republican women, trying to pry them away from gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp:

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In the Sixth District congressional contest, GOP incumbent Karen Handel on Monday announced that she raised nearly $550,000 in the quarter, 79 percent from in-state sources, and had $978,693 in cash on hand to make it to Nov. 6.

This morning, Democrat Lucy McBath announced she had raised nearly $960,000 in the third quarter -- not quite double Handel’s fundraising. Her cash on hand: 

$706,444.

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After initially looking to stay out of the fray, the office of U.S. Sen. David Perdue clapped back at reporters who wrote of the Republican’s phone-snatching snafu at Georgia Tech over the weekend. 

“Let’s recap,” his office said in an email to journalists on Monday. “Senator Perdue was asked to take a picture. Senator Perdue enjoys taking selfies and has done so with countless constituents. He was under the impression that he was about take another selfie. When Senator Perdue realized that this student did not want a selfie, he returned the phone and moved on. Sadly, Democrats are spreading a lot of misinformation.” 

Meanwhile, the Georgia Tech chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, the group whose members filmed Perdue, tweeted: “It's pretty obvious @sendavidperdue is a liar; just watch the damn video.”

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