Gwinnett County, Georgia violated the Civil Rights Act in its handling of absentee ballots in the 2018 Midterms, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
District Court Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that the rejection of absentee ballots in Gwinnett County (one of the most racially diverse counties in the state, according to Census records) based solely on an omitted or incorrect year of birth was unlawful under the Civil Rights Act. May ordered election officials to count those ballots that were unlawfully rejected.
This ruling comes after a different federal judge ordered state election officials to preserve and count provisional ballots.
Georgia’s entire gubernatorial race can be framed as a battle between voter access and voter suppression. Brian Kemp (R), who was initially declared the victor, oversaw the election and engaged in rampant and sometimes racially-charged efforts to limit voter access.
Kemp’s victory has not been certified and the count continues. An unofficial and incomplete summary report has shown that Gwinnett’s count broke in Democrat Stacey Abrams’ favor. Assuming unlawfully rejected ballots follow the same trend, Abrams might gain some ground.
With less than 60,000 votes separating Kemp and Abrams, every bit of ground Abrams can pick up brings the result closer to a December run-off.
But the ruling also will impact Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, a race that’s still too close to call. Less than a thousand votes separate incumbent Rob Woodall (R) and his Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux. While Bourdeaux trailed Woodall overall, in Gwinnett she led by over ten percent making May’s ruling potentially the tipping point in an extraordinarily house race. .
Bordeaux is one of the complainants involved in the suit that eventually required Gwinnett to count these particular ballots, and May’s order could ultimately flip the Georgia 7th.
While May stresses in her order the narrow scope of her ruling, it does call into question a much larger issue — “immaterial errors or omissions”. Georgia’s controversial exact-match voter registration policies also require the precise inclusion and accuracy on immaterial factors, which could have implications for 2020.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.