The U.S. Justice Department is threatening a legal challenge to the way that Georgia conducts federal – i.e., congressional — runoff elections, declaring that the state doesn’t give enough time for members of the military overseas to receive and return ballots.
Federal law requires that ballots be available to overseas personnel at least 45 days before the vote. That would require ballots for an Aug. 21 primary runoff to be issued by July 7 – or three weeks before the first round of voting.
Read the original notice, received last week, here. To make sure overseas votes are counted, the DOJ has proposed a consent order – click here to read it — that would require the state to hold off declaring official winners of an Aug. 21 primary runoff by seven working days, until Aug. 31. (A similar cushion would be added to any Dec. 4 general election runoff that involves federal office.)
Secretary of State Brian Kemp has declared he won’t agree to the DOJ demands, and implies that the action is simply an attempt by a Democratic administration to muddy a red state’s electoral affairs. From a statement:
Three days after sending notification of the DOJ’s authorization to sue the State of Georgia, the DOJ sent a proposed consent decree for the State to execute with the understanding that the DOJ would file the consent decree simultaneously with the DOJ’s lawsuit in federal court.
If the DOJ was earnest, they would have previously contacted us about their concerns rather than sending a notice of a lawsuit a month before the Primary Election. Georgia is literally in the middle of the 2012 Primary. Currently, ballots have been printed and absentee voters (military and overseas included) are voting, while the DOJ is attempting to twist the State’s arm into agreeing to a consent decree, the terms of which would place unnecessary stresses on the elections administration process, before even filing the lawsuit.
The DOJ has not previously expressed concerns about Georgia’s compliance with the MOVE Act, or Georgia’s ability to transmit absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters. In fact, the DOJ approved Georgia’s timing for run-off elections in 2005 after the General Assembly altered prior election laws.
Bottom line: If the DOJ gets all that it asks for, we could have a significant delay in a declared winner in two congressional races – the new 9th District and the 12th District. It makes little difference in the 9th District. There is a Democrat, Gainesville attorney Jody Cooley, but the district is very, very weighted toward the GOP.
But the Republican race for the 12th District is a contest to challenge Democratic incumbent John Barrow of Augusta. And a delayed or confused GOP finish could work to Barrow’s advantage.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider