COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Sunday after more than 1,000 Cobb County voters never received their absentee ballots.
County officials admitted Saturday that the elections officer never mailed 1,048 ballots. Election leaders said their new staff members did not follow procedures on two days to make sure the ballots were mailed.
“I am sorry that this office let these voters down,” Elections and Registrations Director Janine Eveler said. “Many of the absentee staff have been averaging 80 or more hours per week, and they are exhausted. Still, that is no excuse for such a critical error.”
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The ACLU’s lawsuit seeks to send ballots overnight to those voters who still need their ballots. The lawsuit also seeks to move the deadline from 7 p.m. on Election Day to Nov. 14. That is the same deadline for absentee voters in the military and overseas.
On Friday, Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray spoke with a Cobb County resident in Washington D.C. who requested an absentee ballot, but never received it.
Alyse Martin, a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. said she requested her absentee ballot in September. Cobb County said it was issued Oct. 11. Martin told Gray that she still hadn’t received it as of Friday.
Cobb County officials said their investigation determined that roughly 1,048 absentee ballots were never mailed. Election staff overnighted absentee ballots to 83 out of state addresses. They previously overnighted ballots to 194 Cobb County voters.
Records also show 271 residents canceled their ballot request and voted during early voting. The remaining 498 voters are urged to show up in person on Election Day.
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The ACLU argues the changes in absentee ballots that were part of the controversial Senate Bill 202 put pressure on election officials.
Under the previous law, voters could request their absentee ballots 180 days before the election and the county could mail them 49 days before Election Day.
The new law states that ballots can be requested 78 days before an election and can’t be mailed until 29 days before Election Day.
“We are suing to make sure all Cobb County voters are able to have their voices heard, and we look forward to the day when the state partners with counties to make voting easier, not harder, for all Georgians,” Rahul Garabadu, the ACLU of Georgia’s senior voting rights attorney, said.
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The Cobb County Board of Elections Chair also cited the reduced absentee ballot time frames as a factor.
“I am very disappointed that we have placed these voters in a position where they may not have an opportunity to cast their ballots in this general election,” Tori Silas said. “While human error was clearly a factor, I believe reduced time frames for the receipt of requests for and processing of absentee ballot provided under SB202, as well as the turnover in the Elections office, are also significant factors.”
Silas said the board is “taking every possible step” to ensure voters have a chance to cast their ballots and the board will review their absentee ballot process with Eveler and her staff.
Cobb County voters who received their absentee ballots can drop off their ballots in person at seven libraries on Monday and at the main elections office on Tuesday.
Voters who did not receive their ballots can also vote in person at their assigned precinct on Election Day.
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