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Lawsuit: New Georgia rules on requesting absentee ballots are a burden

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A lawsuit filed this week claims Georgia voters are being burdened with additional, new steps to request an absentee ballot.

“This is creating another barrier for voters to jump over,” said Andrea Hailey from Vote.org.

Vote.org, along with two other organizations, Georgia Alliance for Retired Americans and Priorities USA, argue a series of new required steps may keep some voters from requesting an absentee.

Hailey says in a state that saw more than 1,000,000 voters taking part in the vote by mail process in 2020, new election laws should make the process of requesting an absentee even more streamlined and online-friendly. But she says it’s just the opposite.

In the 2020 election, a voter could make an online application using a digital signature. Then the actual absentee ballot was mailed to them. Now a voter must find the application form online, print it and sign with ink (also known as the wet ink rule). After that, the voter must return the application either by mail, by fax or by delivering it to the local election office.

“This is just the application,” said Hailey. “This is just stage one in the process, so what they are essentially doing is trying to eliminate people out of the process before it’s even begun.”

Hailey argues that a lot of people don’t have access to printers either because they cannot afford one or never had one and now don’t think it’s necessary since so many things can be done online without actually having to print a document.

“We have people doing banking online, we have digital signatures for hunting licenses, driver’s licenses, for almost everything,” said Hailey. “So, this ink and pen requirement sounds like we’re going back to 1800s-style living or something.”

“So many people are used to doing things with their smartphones or their laptops, including requesting something like an absentee ballot,” she continued. “Now we’re in a whole different world and I do believe it will cause significant drop-off, particularly around populations that don’t have printer access.”

Hailey said the lawsuit claims that the Civil Rights Act is being violated.

“The Civil Rights Act says that you cannot cause increased burden to voters,” she added.

Hailey claimed more people may be eliminated from the voting process because of the rules, which has nothing to do with one’s eligibility to vote.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger defended the new rule in a news conference on Wednesday and said the state would fight the lawsuit.

“We believe that the appropriate role as the General Assembly put into state law is that you have a wet ink signature to verify that this is your application,” said Raffensperger.

Hailey argued that with the primary getting underway, the new rules are just coming into focus.

“And I think voters are just now starting to realize what these new laws will do in this upcoming election.”