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Lawsuit Challenges Absentee Ballot Rejections in Georgia

The Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Wednesday over Georgia's handling of absentee ballots a year after some ballots were rejected for minor reasons such as signatures not exactly matching those on file with the state.

According to the federal lawsuit, absentee voters are not notified of problems with their ballots in a standard way or given enough time to correct them.

It asks that a judge require state elections officials to notify voters of missing signatures within one day of receiving a ballot.

The integrity of Georgia's elections process was heavily scrutinized during last year's midterm election, in which Republican Brian Kemp, the state's top election official at the time, narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to become governor.

Thousands of absentee ballots were rejected during race. Besides inconsistent signatures, other reasons for rejection included missing signatures as well as technical errors, such as writing the current year in a space designated for the voter's birth.

Absentee ballot rejections were especially high in Gwinnett County, just northeast of Atlanta. The lawsuit blamed the issue in part on the design of Gwinnett's absentee ballot — including its small print — and asks that it be deemed "unduly burdensome" to voters.

A new state law gives voters three days after an election to fix any issues with an absentee ballot.

"Every Georgian should have the right to cast their vote and make sure it counts," state Democratic Party Chair Nikema Williams said in a statement. "Our elections need clear and fair standards to ensure that no one is disenfranchised and that no community is unfairly targeted. Georgia voters deserve nothing less."

Both the Georgia secretary of state's office and Gwinnett County election officials declined to comment.

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