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Voting Group Offers Evidence of Primary Chaos (Corrected)

July 1, 2020, 9:06 PMUpdated: July 2, 2020, 3:17 PM

Georgia voters were significantly burdened during the state’s June primary by the requirement that voters using mail-in ballots provide their own postage, the Black Votes Matter Fund told a federal judge Tuesday.

The state’s June 9 election was infamously marked by equipment failures and long lines at the polls, with some voters waiting until midnight to cast their ballots in person.

The group filed a stack of declarations and an expert’s analysis in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. They’re asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would stop Georgia from enforcing the postage requirement for the November 2020 election.

The coronavirus pandemic is projected to persist into the fall, and the Fund argues that voters shouldn’t be forced to expose themselves to the virus because they can’t afford a stamp.

Several voters cited quarantine and sheltering in place as a reason that they didn’t have stamps at home ahead of the June 9 primary election cycle and weren’t able to easily obtain them. Deciding to break quarantine to vote in person rather than by mail was a difficult decision, the Fund said.

One disabled voter said in her declaration that it was too physically difficult for her to go and obtain stamps, and that she instead spent hours at a poll station among maskless voters. Another declarant cited recent unemployment and a tight budget as to why he voted in person rather than obtaining stamps.

The postage requirement will affect millions of Georgians in November, according to Matthew A. Barreto, Ph.D.'s analysis attached to the Fund’s brief. Impoverished voters and unbanked voters are affected by the rule, as are voters with language barriers, or who don’t have access to reliable transportation, Barreto said.

The Fund isn’t the only advocacy group challenging Georgia’s election rules. The New Georgia Project filed a separate lawsuit demanding looser absentee ballot rules earlier this month, also pointing to the chaos of the June primary as “a dire warning of things to come.”

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundations of New York and Georgia represent the Fund.

Robbins Ross Alloy Belinfante Littlefield LLC and Kaufman & Forman PC represent Raffensperger.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).

The case is Black Voters Matter Fund v. Raffensperger, N.D. Ga., No. 20-cv-01489, supplemental briefing filed 6/30/20.

(Corrects district court in citation at end of July 1 story)

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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