The Democratic Party of Georgia filed a lawsuit Thursday to force Georgia election officials to take steps to cut down long lines at voting precincts ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.
The lawsuit comes after several Georgia counties saw long lines at polling places during the primary elections in June and distancing measures mandated to curb health risks from coronavirus continue posing challenges for voter access.
Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the lawsuit seeks a court order requiring more polling places, better equipment training, extra time to set up precincts, backup voting machines and clearer instructions on when to switch to emergency paper ballots.
The lawsuit lays blame on county and state election officials for the long lines, arguing poll closures and consolidations, equipment issues, lack of training for poll workers and little emergency technical assistance have worsened lines on Election Day.
Hours-long waits in line to cast ballots have the potential to pose not just an inconvenience but a source of disenfranchisement for Georgia voters, making it a legal matter that should be addressed in court, the lawsuit argues.
“Defendants’ systemic failures in election administration have led to long lines that have resulted in significant disenfranchisement of Georgia voters for over a decade now as voters who are forced to wait in line leave and many others never enter the line at all, deterred by the impending wait,” the lawsuit says.
Several Georgia voters joined the lawsuit along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The lawsuit especially singles out Fulton County, which saw huge lines during the primary election in early June, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose office has placed blame squarely on Fulton and a handful of other county election officials for local precinct problems.
Those problems are poised to be potentially worse for the Nov. 3 general election, when millions of voters are expected to head to polls during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the lawsuit argues. Long lines would pose health risks for elderly Georgians and those with chronic illnesses.
Responding to the lawsuit, Raffensperger’s office noted many duties like adding polling places and voting equipment fall to counties to implement but that the state had provided local officials with data to help make improvements to reduce long lines for the November election.
“We will work around the clock from here through the elections – under the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic – to ensure that all eligible Georgia voters are informed fully about any polling place changes, that we have enough precincts and poll workers and that we do everything possible to minimize lines,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in a prepared statement.
Raffensperger’s office also criticized Democratic state lawmakers for opposing a bill brought in the 2020 legislative session that was originally aimed at reducing the size of any precincts that have long waits.
However, that language was stripped from the bill in June and amended by the Republican-controlled Georgia House Governmental Affairs Committee to prohibit state and county officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballots, a move Democrats saw as a bid to stifle mail-in voting amid the pandemic.
The bill never came to the House floor for a vote after passing out of committee.