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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Coalition for Good Governance Join Lawsuit to Halt Unconstitutional Mail Ballot Rejections in Gwinnett County

For Immediate Release October 23, 2018

Tuesday court hearing set in lawsuit filed by Georgia Voters against Brian Kemp and elections officials

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, partnering with the Coalition for Good Governance, joined a lawsuit challenging the extraordinarily high rate of rejections of absentee mail ballots in Georgia and, in particular, the rejection of ballots cast by minority voters by Gwinnett County, Georgia.  The suit was originally filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by attorney Bruce Brown, representing five Georgia voters. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represents the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and individual voters.  The defendants are Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, members of the Georgia State Board of Elections, and members of the Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections.

Georgia has one of the highest rates of rejections of absentee mail ballots, with the 8th highest levels of the 50 states.  Gwinnett County fares even worse. Georgia’s level of mail ballot rejections are unacceptably high, and Gwinnett County, with a 7.4% rejection rate to date, is extreme.

Worse, Gwinnett County’s rejections are disproportionately of those absentee mail ballots cast by minority voters.  While Gwinnett has rejected 3.1% of absentee mail ballots cast by White voters, it is rejecting those cast by people of color at much higher rates:  ballots cast by Hispanic voters have been rejected at a rate of 5.1%; those cast by African-American voters, at a rate of 10.3%; and those cast by Asian-American voters at a rate of 13.9%.

Exacerbating the situation, the bulk of rejections in Gwinnett County are for the inconsequential failure of the voter to fill in the year of birth on the outside envelope, although the voter’s identity has been verified through signature match.

The complaint claims that the defendants’ actions constitute violations of the right to vote and the Equal Protection Clause, guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Plaintiffs have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which will be heard on Tuesday before Judge Eleanor Ross.

The lawsuit seeks the following key remedies:

–Voters must be notified in one business day by first class mail, and telephone and email if available, that their ballot application or mail ballot has been rejected, with instructions given on how to provide the needed information to obtain a ballot or have the rejected ballot counted.

–No ballots can be rejected solely for lack of the year of birth information.

–Ballots and applications already rejected must be reviewed immediately, and voters must be provided with the above-mentioned protections.

–Voters whose ballots have been rejected must be given until the Friday after Election Day to resolve any issues regarding mail ballot eligibility questions.

Atlanta lawyer Bruce P. Brown, who represents the Plaintiffs, said: “Georgians are voting absentee mail ballots in record numbers, and it is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure that every eligible voter in Georgia has a fair opportunity to exercise their right to vote in this important election.”

“Georgia officials in some counties are using frivolous and arbitrary excuses to reject far too many mail ballots,” said Marilyn Marks, Executive Director of Coalition for Good Governance, the organization underwriting the lawsuit for the individual Georgia plaintiffs. “With just over two weeks until Election Day, we are proud to fight alongside the Lawyers’ Committee to ensure rejected ballots cast by eligible voters are counted. Georgia deserves to participate in a fair election.”

“There is no other explanation but race that could explain the crisis unfolding with respect to Gwinnett County’s mass rejection of absentee ballots,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “When rejection rates of absentee mail ballots cast by minority voters are at a level that is 3 to 5 times that of the rejection rate of absentee mail ballots cast by White voters, something is clearly wrong, and immediate action is necessary. We are happy to join Coalition for Good Governance in this fight against this naked attempt to lock minority voters out of the electoral process in Georgia.”

The Tuesday, October 23, 2018, hearing is set for 1:00 p.m. EST, in Courtroom 2107 in the Richard Russell Federal Building, 75 Ted Turner Dr. S.W., Atlanta, Georgia.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. Learn more at Lawyerscommittee.org.

About Coalition for Good Governance

Coalition for Good Governance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advocating for secure, transparent, and fair elections. The organization is also suing Secretary Kemp, the State Board of Elections, and Fulton County election officials in U.S. District Court in Atlanta (Curling v Kemp 17 cv 2989) to stop the use of Georgia’s unverifiable electronic voting system.

CONTACT:

Derrick Robinson, Director of Communications, [email protected], (202) 662-8317

 

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