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Theater workers challenge Georgia election law's absentee request deadline

Mark Niesse, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

A recent lawsuit by TV and theater workers exposes a conflict between Georgia’s new voting law and a federal requirement allowing more time to request absentee ballots.

Georgia’s election law has mostly survived court challenges in the 2 1/2 years since Republican legislators passed limitations on mail-in voting following Donald Trump’s defeat.

But the case by an Atlanta theater workers’ union could succeed where other court claims have fallen short.

The lawsuit attempts to invalidate a part of Georgia’s voting law that set a deadline to request absentee ballots 11 days before election day. Previously, voters could apply for absentee ballots until the Friday before an election.

Under an amendment to the Voting Rights Act passed in 1970, voters who will be absent from their home jurisdictions on election day are entitled to cast absentee ballots in federal elections if they apply for ballots at least seven days ahead of time.

“Georgia’s new absentee ballot deadline violates the Voting Rights Act by drastically reducing the period in which Georgians can apply for an absentee ballot,” said Uzoma Nkwonta, an attorney for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 927. “So many Georgia voters, including the IATSE members we represent, often have to travel around and outside Georgia on short notice. These voters may not know that they will need to vote absentee until shortly before election day.”

 

Defenders of Georgia’s election law say the earlier deadline protects voters from receiving absentee ballots too late to be mailed out, returned and counted.

Absentee ballots are rejected unless they’re delivered to county election offices by 7 p.m. on election day, according to state law.

“Liberals’ actions seek to disenfranchise the thousands of Georgia voters who depend on the Postal Service to deliver their ballots in time to be counted,” said Mike Hassinger, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is in place to ensure that ballots can be sent, marked and returned in time to be counted.”

The IATSE lawsuit is the latest legal attempt to undermine Georgia’s 2021 voting law, which limited the number of ballot drop boxes, added ID requirements for absentee voting, banned handing out food and water to voters waiting in line, and allowed unlimited challenges of voters’ eligibility.

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©2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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