Georgia will give voters more time to correct rejected absentee ballots

Georgia voters will receive additional time to correct their rejected absentee ballots following last week’s calamitous primary.

Following a legal challenge by state Democrats on Friday, voters will now get three business days after the date they are notified that their ballot is rejected to fix issues, Georgia election director Chris Harvey said in a statement.

“Any absentee ballots that have been rejected should have a cure notice mailed (and emailed, if applicable) to the voter as soon as possible,” Harvey said.

Counties have been struggling with the review process amid an overwhelming volume of absentee ballots that were cast last Tuesday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“(G)iven the complicating factors brought forth due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing public health state of emergency, it appears some counties have not been able to process, review and provide notice of absentee ballot rejections to voters by the close of business after Election Day,” Harvey added.

Under the state’s election code, voters typically have until three days after a primary to fix their absentee ballots. Voters must submit a copy of their photo ID or other proof of identity to validate their ballots.

The Georgia Democratic Party last Friday filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as well as members of the Georgia State election board, citing notification requirements that the party deemed “impossible for several county boards of election to comply with.”

The Democratic Party noted in a press release that more than 943,000 voters had returned an absentee ballot this year, whereas nearly 285,000 did so in the 2018 election.

The party had asked a judge to require Raffensperger to direct all county election superintendents to contact voters within one business day of their ballots being rejected, and to grant any Georgia voter whose ballot is rejected until this Friday to submit information they think could factor into their ballot being accepted.

“We’re happy that the Secretary of State took action to correct his mistakes after pressure from Georgia Democrats, but it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit for him to do his job. Now he needs to make sure all affected voters are contacted as soon as possible and have the chance to cure their ballots, and make sure that he does not put Georgia voters in the same situation in November,” Maggie Chambers, a party spokeswoman, said in a statement following Harvey’s announcement.

Ari Schaffer, press secretary for Raffensperger, told CNN that the new directive is a way of mitigating the issues brought up in the lawsuit.

State election officials have blamed inexperienced election workers for the problems last week, as well as safety issues related to the coronavirus, including the heightened use of absentee ballots. They have pushed back on suggestions that malfunctioning equipment is causing delays. Several voters with whom CNN has spoken, however, have said they were having difficulty using election machines and machines were reported down at multiple locations by voters.

Meanwhile, Raffensperger and the state House speaker have called for an investigation into the voting delays in Atlanta and across Georgia on the day of the state’s primary that led to long lines and a rocky election.

The deadline for county election officials to certify the election results is 5 p.m. ET on Friday, according to Harvey’s statement.