August 18, 2023
Court confirms ban on ballot collection and security regulations for mailboxes; Maintains the ban on pipe heating within 150 feet of the polling place; Prohibits counties from rejecting mail-in ballots because of an incorrect date of birth
Atlanta – Today, a federal judge upheld key portions of Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, including provisions that prohibit ballot collection and require commonsense ballot drop box security rules for absentee voting. The court also found that Georgia’s ban on giving away food, drinks, or gifts remained in effect within 150 feet of the polling place, but not outside 150 feet of the polling place. In a novel and sweeping interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the court also prohibited counties from rejecting mail-in ballots with an incorrect date of birth, even though Georgia law already gave voters the opportunity to correct any errors on their mail-in ballots.
The court condemned the ACLU and other activist groups for their attempt to allow ballot harvesting and repeal security requirements for mail-in ballot boxes. The ACLU and others had claimed that these provisions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Georgia continues to have one of the safest and most accessible voting systems in the country for all voters, including voters with disabilities,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “I am pleased that the court upheld Georgia’s common sense rules prohibiting ballot collection and securing absentee ballot drop boxes. Georgia’s electoral system is accessible to all voters and provides voters with numerous opportunities to choose how they wish to exercise their right to vote.”
In a novel and broad interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is being used by activists across the country to overturn long-standing election security regulations, the court found that Georgia counties cannot reject mail-in ballots with an incorrect date of birth despite the fact that that Georgia law already allows voters to resolve such discrepancies before their ballot is rejected.
“Georgia has one of the best mail-in voting systems in the country. We have no-excuse mail-in ballots, where voters are verified with a photo ID and given the opportunity to correct any discrepancies before their ballot is rejected. It’s a system that works well. Today, a federal judge ruled in an erroneous opinion that using a voter’s date of birth to verify whether they are actually the voter returning the ballot violates the Civil Rights Act. Verifying that an absent voter is actually the person who cast the ballot is one of the most difficult and important tasks expected of local election officials. An unelected federal judge taking a tool out of the local election official’s toolbox for this important task is the wrong decision, especially when that toolbox has worked well for Georgia voters. I fear that this decision will have unintended consequences. Therefore, elected federal judges should leave lawmaking to legislators, not leave policy decisions to unelected judges. “I expect that today’s decision will be appealed and that the state law will ultimately be upheld,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Georgia law prohibits providing food, drinks or gifts to voters while they are in line to vote. A federal judge upheld this provision of Georgia law for conduct within 150 feet of a polling place, but rejected it for conduct within 150 feet of a polling place. This decision should have limited impact because due to other provisions of Georgia’s Election Integrity Law and the good work of county election officials, the line to vote should not be as long. According to county data collected by the Georgia Secretary of State, the average Election Day wait time in November 2022 was 2 minutes and 19 seconds and the average Election Day wait time for the December 2022 runoff election was 1 minute and 45 seconds. Georgia law prohibiting the giving of anything of value in exchange for voting or voting for a particular candidate remains in effect.
“Because of the good work that both state and county election officials have done to ensure short lines for voters, this decision is expected to have limited impact,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. I am grateful that the ban on giving valuables to voters within 150 feet of the polling place remains in place. All voters should have the right to cast their vote in peace, without being exposed to potentially unwanted requests.”
Georgia is recognized as the national leader in elections. It was the first state in the country to adopt triple automatic voter registration, at least 17 days of early voting (dubbed the “gold standard”) and no-excuse absentee voting. Georgia continues to set records for voter turnout and turnout, posting the largest increase in average voter turnout of any other state in the 2018 midterm elections, as well as record turnout in 2020 and 2022. 2022 marked the highest early voting turnout in a single day in Georgia’s midterm election history using Georgia’s secure paper voting system. Most recently, Georgia ranked first for election integrity by the Heritage Foundation, top for voter accessibility by the Center for Election Innovation & Research, and first for election administration by the Bipartisan Policy Center.