Senate Runoff in Georgia at Center of Fresh Republican Lawsuits
(Bloomberg) -- Republicans have filed a flurry of lawsuits over voting procedures in Georgia, ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff election that that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.
The suits seek to rein in rules put in place to expand voting access during the pandemic, including the use of drop boxes and checks on mail-in ballots, as well as increasing access for party observers to watch ballot counting.
The suits mirror many of the efforts that were rejected before the presidential election last month. They come as Republican attempts to upend the results continue to be denied in state and federal courts. Georgia is also one of four states being sued by Texas over changes to its election procedures, in a case currently awaiting action from the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Republicans seek a variety of court orders curtailing the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots, adding new layers of scrutiny to the signature-matching process and revisiting one of the biggest disputes from November -- expanded access to the ballot-counting process by party observers. Democrats have argued for months that such changes are ultimately intended to invalidate thousands of ballots in a manner that would benefit Republicans.
“These lawsuits are a wholesale attack on Georgians’ voting rights and are nothing less than a cynical effort to win the runoffs,” Marc Elias, an elections attorney who represents national Democrats, said in a statement. “With the ongoing threat of Covid-19, vote by mail and drop boxes remain as critical lifelines for voters ahead of the runoffs.”
President Donald Trump, who has railed against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp for not pursuing his claims of flawed signature verification, visited the state last weekend for a rally with Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both of whom face Democratic challengers in the runoffs. Georgia conducted a state-wide audit of the results which confirmed Biden won the state.
On Thursday, the Georgia Republican Party filed a federal lawsuit against Raffensperger, alleging the signature-matching process for mail-in ballots the Republican put in place violates the U.S. Constitution because it isn’t strict enough.
The suit requests a court order requiring that the signature on each mail-in ballot be verified by three reviewers and at least one “meaningful observer from each political party.” The GOP also seeks to force election workers to “cure” every ballot if one reviewer believes the signature doesn’t match, which would require individual outreach to voters.
Such a process would “increase confidence in the fairness and openness of the 2021 runoff election for Georgia’s U.S. Senators by further enhancing procedures to assure the integrity of processing absentee ballots,” the Republicans said in the complaint.
On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee and the state GOP sued in Fulton County seeking an order restricting hours of use for drop boxes for absentee ballots and requiring publicly available video surveillance. The suit also seeks a wide range of additional assurances for observers to watch the tallying of ballots, including the ability to get closer and move around more easily -- demands that have previously butted against health requirements during the pandemic.
In a suit filed Dec. 9 in federal court in Augusta, Georgia, a Republican committee representing Georgia’s 12th Congressional District asked for an order barring the use of drop boxes and requiring the state to keep outer ballot envelopes with inner envelopes until the polls close. They said any problems triggered by such a court order would be worth it.
“If disruption occurs as a result of this court’s grant of injunctive relief, it is a burden far outweighed by the benefit of assuring that vote fraud and other election misconduct is eliminated or at least minimized,” they said.
Katie Byrd, spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
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