UPDATE: On Friday, Dec. 2, a state court approved an agreement between the plaintiffs and the Board of Elections of Cobb County, Georgia. The absentee ballot receipt deadline for affected voters is extended to Dec. 9 as long as the ballot is postmarked by 7:00 p.m. EST on Election Day. Affected voters who don’t receive their absentee ballots by Dec. 4 can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot to vote in the Senate runoff. Additionally, Cobb County will permit any voter who hasn’t received their absentee ballot yet to vote in person on Election Day.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Dec. 1, several Cobb County, Georgia voters filed a supplemental complaint and request for emergency relief alleging that the Cobb County Board of Elections failed to send absentee ballots in a timely manner — for the second time this election cycle — to approximately 3,400 voters for the upcoming Dec. 6, 2022 U.S. Senate runoff election. This renewed legal action is a continuation of an existing lawsuit filed less than a month ago by Cobb County voters claiming that the county failed to send nearly 1,000 absentee ballots to voters in time for the Nov. 8, 2022 midterm elections, risking the possibility that the voters who requested but did not receive absentee ballots would be disenfranchised in violation of Georgia law and the state constitution. This lawsuit was ostensibly resolved when the county agreed to take immediate action to ensure that the voters who did not receive their requested absentee ballots were still able to vote in this year’s midterm elections. Under the terms of the consent order, Cobb County agreed to overnight absentee ballots and extend the absentee ballot receipt deadline for the affected voters to Nov. 14.
In their most recent complaint, the plaintiffs assert that “[d]ays before the upcoming runoff election, the Cobb Board has again failed to timely send absentee ballots to [more than 3,400] Cobb County voters who timely requested them, resulting in the need to file Plaintiffs’ Supplemental Complaint and request for additional emergency relief to prevent the disenfranchisement of Cobb County voters.” Accordingly, the plaintiffs ask the court to grant their request for emergency relief in order to extend the absentee ballot receipt deadline to Dec. 9 (the receipt deadline for Uniformed and Overseas Voters’ ballots), to allow voters who have not received a ballot by Dec. 6 for the runoff election to use a federal write-in absentee ballot and to require Cobb County to notify voters of these changes. The supplemental complaint and request for relief notes that without these changes, thousands of Cobb County voters face the risk of disenfranchisement in violation of Georgia law.
Cobb County’s second debacle over undelivered absentee ballots this election cycle comes as no surprise. In fact, it is a plausible consequence of Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s omnibus voter suppression law enacted last year. S.B. 202 shortened the time period county officials have to send out requested absentee ballots, thereby placing greater administrative burdens on election workers and increasing the likelihood that mistakes occur.