Georgia Groups Discover that Gwinnett County is Rejecting Absentee Ballot Request at an Alarming Rate and Its Mostly People of Color Being Impacted
October 16, 2018(Atlanta, GA) – Civic engagement organizations ProGeorgia and the Coalition for the Peoples Agenda have evaluated data collected as of October 15th, from the Secretary of State Absentee file and have found that Gwinnett County officials are seemingly engaging in activity geared to suppress voter turnout. Of the 1,476 rejected absentee ballot requests in the state, 51% come from Gwinnett County. Of the 1,070 ballots rejected, 36.5% come from Gwinnett County. Gwinnett County is rejecting ballot requests at a rate 4.6 times higher than the state, and ballots at a rate 4.3 times higher than the state. Statewide and in Gwinnett County, over 2/3 of affected voters are people of color.
Helen Butler, Executive Director of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, says “It seems that Gwinnett County is attempting to lower voter participation, particularly of people of color and we need an explanation.”
“Gwinnett County has a history of not embracing its changing demographics with minority voter dilution in redistricting and refusal to voluntarily move forward with Spanish language access to voting. Clearly this is a red flag and they should be monitored,” added Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO.
Particularly alarming are forms rejected for seemingly trivial reasons. 416 ballots requests and 98 ballots were rejected because of a signature match issue (206 and 12 in Gwinnett County respectively). Many of the signatures on file originate from machines at the Department of Driver Services, and so it’s difficult to assess the accuracy of the signature match. Given that Gwinnett County is identifying signature match problems on absentee ballot requests at a rate almost 5 times higher than the state as a whole, this process seems subjective.
Moreover, Gwinnett County has rejected 169 ballot requests (for absentee balloting) because the voter incorrectly marked the election day on the request. Given that there is no other election for which a voter can request an absentee ballot, it is unreasonable to prevent a voter from expressing their constitutional right to vote for this reason.”
Out of 159 counties, Gwinnett is the only county to have rejected a voter for this reason. Community groups continue to assert that absentee ballots are a critical means for voters to exercise their constitutional right to make their voices heard in our Democracy.
Many groups of voters, including those without transportation, people with disabilities, and senior citizens rely disproportionately on absentee voting, and doing so should be easy. Absentee ballot request forms and absentee ballot requests are being rejected for a wide variety of trivial reasons, including:
- “Invalid Election Date”
- “Signed on Wrong Line”
- “Assistor Didn’t Sign”
- “Left Oath Blank but Signed It”
- “Signed Wrong Oath”
- “Digital Signature”
- “No Reason”
For each of the reject applications and ballots listed on the Secretary of State’s Voter Absentee Voter File, the county had enough information identify the voter in question, and their intent to fill out an absentee ballot. Despite the fact that evidence of individual voter fraud is exceptionally rare, counties around the state, especially Gwinnett County, seem to be going beyond the scope of the law in rejecting legitimate absentee ballots.