The Democratic Party has taken aim at elections in Georgia on two fronts in federal court: how candidates are listed on ballots and how elections officials decide whether to accept absentee ballots.
In separate cases, the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee are suing state officials over each matter.
The absentee ballot suit is the latest of the legal actions taken, being filed in federal court Thursday. Party officials specifically targeted Gwinnett County’s elections board, in addition to Secretary of State Brad Rafensperger and state elections officials, however, in the absentee ballot lawsuit.
Gwinnett had high numbers of absentee ballots, 49% of which were cast by minority voters, that were rejected in the county in last year’s general election because of mismatched signatures and other issues.
“Every Georgian should have the right to cast their vote and make sure it counts,” Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams said in a statement. “Our elections need clear and fair standards to ensure that no one is disenfranchised and that no community is unfairly targeted. Georgia voters deserve nothing less.”
The state and national branches of the Democratic Party are framing the lawsuits as part of efforts to “protect the integrity of elections in states across the country.”
In the case of the absentee ballot rejections, Democratic Party officials argued that, despite reforms implemented last year, the state has not yet put uniform rules in place for notifying absentee voters of issues with their ballots, creating situations where the notification rules could vary from one county to the next.
“Voters should not be left out or left behind because a state’s election laws fail to ensure every ballot – no matter who casts it – is treated the same,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said.
“We are challenging Georgia’s substandard handling of absentee ballots because we believe every voter has the right to cast their ballot knowing it will be counted, and counted fairly.”
Meanwhile, the ballot listing lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 1, stems from a state law that mandates the candidate whose party which won the last gubernatorial election is listed first on the ballot.
Democrats argue that rule gives Republican candidates an unfair advantage next year since Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, won the 2018 gubernatorial election.
That could be a key factor in races, such as the 7th Congressional district race in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties that will be open next year. U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., barely won re-election to the seat last year before deciding to retire after his current term ends at the end of 2020.
Other key races on the 2020 ballot that Democrats feel could be impacted by the ordering of candidates based on Kemp’s election as governor include the presidential race and the two U.S. Senate races in Georgia.
“Unless the Ballot Order Statute is enjoined, in every single one of the partisan races on the ballot in Georgia in 2020, including those that are projected to be competitive, the Republican candidate will enter the election with a state mandated thumb on the scale in favor of his or her election, for no other reason than a different Republican candidate won the Governor’s race by 1.39 percentage points in an unrelated election two years earlier,” Democratic Party officials said in the suit.
“The result will be severe and irreparable harm to the plaintiffs, as well as the candidates they support and, in the case of the organizational plaintiffs, their memberships and voting constituencies.”
The Democratic National Committee, Priorities USA and two voters are also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the listing of candidates on ballots. Only Rafensperger and the State Elections Board members are listed as defendants in that case.