Last spring, the State Election Board began encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots to limit human contact at polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic. The board adopted a rule that allows counties to establish drop boxes where voters can return ballots. For security reasons, the boxes must be monitored by video cameras 24 hours a day.
Because of the proliferation of absentee ballots during the pandemic, the board also allowed county election officials to open – but not tally – absentee ballots before the election. Most recently, they required counties to begin such processing eight days before the election – a move designed to speed up the reporting of results.
In the lawsuit, the Twelfth District Republicans said those rules violate state law and provisions of the U.S. Constitution. They said the rules facilitate voting fraud and “ballot harvesting” – the practice of third parties gathering and returning many ballots. The practice is illegal in Georgia.
The lawsuit also challenged Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s guidance to counties on signature-matching procedures for absentee ballots. It said that guidance has discouraged local officials from rejecting signatures, potentially allowing illegal votes to be cast.
In court documents, Raffensperger’s office said the rules comply with state law. They said the Republicans have presented no evidence of ballot harvesting.
Raffensperger’s office also says the signature review process also complies with state law. And it argued other courts have been reluctant to change the rules of an election already in progress.
Hall cited those precedents in dismissing the Republicans’ lawsuit. He said they could have challenged the election rules months ago. And he said they had not demonstrated any injury that would give them standing to bring such a lawsuit, calling their allegations of fraud “highly speculative.”
In recent days Republicans have filed at least two other lawsuits seeking to challenge absentee ballot rules in Georgia. One, joined by the state’s two incumbent Republican senators, will get a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The other is pending in Fulton County Superior Court.