Georgians will have more time to mail absentee ballots to county election offices ahead of this coming week’s runoff elections.
The Democratic Party and Secretary of State’s office came to a settlement Friday in a lawsuit brought by the party in federal court just a day earlier.
So long as absentee ballots are postmarked by Election Day — Dec. 4 — county officials must count all mailed ballots they receive before the end of the day on Dec. 7.
“This is helpful relief,” said Adam Sparks, an attorney for the Democrats. “It only matters if you go out and actually use that extra time, use that appropriate time, and exercise that constitutional right. It is more important than ever to make sure every vote counts, and that’s why we brought this case.”
In court filings, the Democratic Party said more than 121,000 people requested absentee mail-in ballots.
But at least 21 counties, the party said, didn’t send out absentee ballots until Nov. 27, leaving just a few days for the ballots to arrive, be filled out, and be returned by voters.
The party pointed out in its filing that people who requested absentee ballots, but have not filled them out, can still vote on Election Day if they complete an administrative step when they go to the polls.
“In order to avoid the burden delays, and uncertainties of litigation,” the State of Georgia wrote in the settlement, “and to efficiently and expeditiously promote the Parties’ shared goals of ensure the Georgia’s voters are afforded the rights guaranteed under the laws of the United States and the State of Georgia, the parties consent to the terms of this Consent Order.”
Races for Secretary of State, as well as a spot of the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities including Georgia Power, weren’t decided in the Nov. 6 midterms, because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote.
The result of the midterms wasn’t certified until eleven days after the election, on Nov. 17.
The campaign of Democrat Stacey Abrams, and civil rights groups, filed multiple lawsuits to allow, in part, more time for the state and counties to go through provisional and absentee ballots.
At the time, the Secretary of State’s office wrote in court filings that it should be able to certify election results as soon as possible, and that any delay would inhibit preparations for the runoffs.