To Help Disenfranchised Gwinnett County Voters, Follow Best Practices on Vote-By Mail, Common Cause Tells Kemp, Local Board of Elections

Atlanta, GA—Concerned by reports of rejected mail ballots in Gwinnett County in advance of the November 2018 elections, Common Cause-Georgia is urging the Gwinnett County Board of Elections and Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, to adopt national “best practices” for processing mail ballots. Currently, Gwinnett elections officials are rejecting the ballots of voters of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates compared to white voters, and as compared to rejection rates statewide. Gwinnett’s rejected ballots account for nearly 40 percent of rejected ballots statewide.

Common Cause-Georgia sent a letter Monday to Kemp and Gwinnett officials that laid out remedies for processing the rejected ballots and informing Georgia voters whose ballots have been rejected what to do next.

Executive Director Sara Henderson noted, “The right to vote is a hollow promise without the ability to cast a ballot that counts. Voters of color in Gwinnett County are disproportionately getting their ballots rejected, but not being informed of a way to make their vote count. Deadlines to vote are approaching quickly. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to address this problem. That’s why we’re urging Gwinnett County to adopt the best practices laid out by the Election Assistance Commission and used in Colorado to ensure we minimize needless rejections.”

Over the weekend, groups including the ACLU and Coalition for Good Governance, filed a lawsuit on the matter.
According to the Common Cause letter, options include providing voters an opportunity to request a replacement ballot, returning the ballot envelope to the voter for curing, or allowing voters to cure the ballot in person at the election’s office. It’s not clear that Gwinnett voters have been informed of these options. Additionally, the EAC recommends a three-step signature review process if signature verification is required by state law to ensure that ballots are not unduly rejected.

“Georgia voters do have rights and options if their ballots are rejected,” continued Henderson. “We’re working with local Boards of Elections across the state to let them know of best practices that have been used in Georgia and across the country, to ensure everyone who’s eligible to vote, can.”

The full letter can be found here.