Federal judge says Georgia has to count all absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day

Federal judge says Georgia has to count all absentee ballots received by Election Day

ATLANTA — A federal judge handed down a decision Monday afternoon that states Georgia has to count all absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and delivered up to three days later.

During the June primary, around 8,400 ballots were disqualified because they did not arrive by 7 p.m. that night.

“Extending the deadline would ensure that voters who receive their ballots shortly before Election Day are able to mail their ballots without fear that their vote will not count,” U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross wrote in her 70-page order.

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The decision will likely result in tens of thousands of ballots being counted after Nov. 3 that would have otherwise been rejected, enough to swing close elections.

“The court is essentially extending that deadline by three days. They can also start counting absentee ballots early. But as of the June primary, half of the ballots in Georgia cast are early votes and absentee ballots,” Channel 2 political analyst Bill Crane said. “This means, obviously, we will not have final results in many elections on Election Day. We will still be tabulating for three days if it’s postmarked by Election Day for three days after. In California, seven days after Election Day.”

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The court order will slow vote counting and election results as officials take time to count all valid ballots.

“Given the volume, Fulton County, DeKalb County, Rockdale County, Clayton all said they had record numbers of absentee ballots received on Election Day and the day before Election Day. And all of those counties I just mentioned also had thousands that came in after the June primary that were not tabulated,” Crane said.

“So hopefully, voters will not take this as a message to delay their ballot, but at least we know that there is some cushion of time there for them to get their ballots in,” Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore said to Crane.

“We also know from the results that in 2018, Stacey Abrams, the Democratic Party won the early vote and the absentee vote. Fair Fight Georgia and other organizations are doing a better job of identifying Democratic households and pushing that vote out. So if those trends continue, this also, electorally, should benefit Democrats,” Crane said.

The secretary of state’s office plans to immediately appeal the ruling.

“Extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline is a bad idea that will make it nearly impossible for election officials to complete their required postelection tasks in the timeline that is required by law,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said.

Over 5 million Georgia voters are expected to participate in November’s election — many of them again likely to vote absentee. Georgia law has allowed any registered voter to request an absentee ballot without having to provide an excuse since 2005.

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