WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) issued a demand letter to the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections (BORE) and the Gwinnett County Attorney expressing grave concerns regarding the massive number of absentee ballots that have been rejected by the county – a rate higher than virtually all other Atlanta metro area counties. The letter demands the BORE count absentee ballots cast by voters who appeared to be confused by the revised absentee ballot envelope’s birth year request, provide voters with prompt notice if their absentee ballot is rejected to make sure they are not disenfranchised in future elections, and provide expedited information as to why absentee ballots have been rejected due to “insufficient oath information.” Additionally, the letter calls on the County Attorney to meet with the Lawyers’ Committee to discuss the rejections.
“Gwinnett County is rejecting absentee ballots at an astounding rate, accounting for virtually 40% of all rejected absentee ballots statewide,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Our analysis shows the impact is particularly stark on communities of color, with ballots cast by African Americans rejected at more than three times the rate of ballots cast by white voters. We are continuing to see voter suppression rear its ugly head in Georgia at both the state and local levels. We will remain vigilant throughout the midterm election cycle and fight back against efforts to silence and disenfranchise minority voters.” Clarke continued, “We urge Gwinnett County voters who may have been impacted to contact the Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE for support.”
Data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office indicates that the BORE has been rejecting absentee ballots cast by minority voters, particularly African-American and Asian-American voters, at disproportionately high rates compared to white voters. The disparities are large and statistically significant.
“Gwinnett County election officials should do everything possible to assist voters and prevent them from being unnecessarily disenfranchised in the November general election,” said John Powers, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee. “Voters should check to see if their absentee ballot was rejected – the Lawyers’ Committee stands ready to assist voters whose ballots were denied incorrectly.”
According to data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, as of Thursday, October 11, Gwinnett County was responsible for approximately 40 percent of the rejected absentee ballots statewide, even though county residents cast only 12 percent of all absentee ballots in Georgia. Similarly, as of today, October 16, Gwinnett County election officials had rejected 464 absentee ballots, hundreds more than any other Georgia county. These problems may be resulting from recent modifications to the BORE’s absentee ballot envelope and a lack of willingness of election officials to err on the side of voters who might be confused, and promptly notify them so they can make corrections where necessary.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its partners recently sued Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp over the state’s discriminatory and unlawful “exact match” voter suppression scheme, which placed more than 53,000 voter registration applications in “pending” status one month before the midterm election. The Lawyers’ Committee also successfully urged for the extension of the voter registration deadline for Clay, Turner, Randolph and Grady Counties. The deadline for these counties closes Tuesday, October 16th.
The full notice letter can be found here.
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 Election Protection
Election Protection is the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition of more than 100 partners, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its suite of hotlines: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) administered by the Lawyers’ Committee; 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) administered by NALEO Educational Fund; 888-API-VOTE (888-273-8683) administered by APIAVote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC; and 844-YALLA-US (844- 925-5287) administered by the Arab American Institute – a dedicated team of trained legal and grassroots volunteers help all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting. For more information about Election Protection and the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline, visit: www.866ourvote.org.
Derrick Robinson, [email protected], 202-662-8317