SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As cases of coronavirus continue to increase in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that certain businesses could reopen later this week. That prompted a group already planning on suing over elections to include the governor’s actions as one reason for their lawsuit.
“We were literally pulling things together and planned on hitting that send button soon when the announcement was made,” said Marilyn Marks from the Coalition for Good Governance. “And we said ‘wait a minute, hold the presses’ and then we added a couple of paragraphs about his decision.”
The coalition is suing on behalf of five Georgia voters, asking that the primary election which was pushed from May 19 to June 9 now be moved back again to June 30. Marks says proper safety protocols have not been put into place.
“State election officials, the General Assembly and the governor, no one has addressed these basic protections that are needed in order for people to vote safely and for the poll workers to be able to work safely,” she said.
The lawsuit asks that the state provide protective equipment for all poll workers (volunteers and county election staff) as well as masks for voters who may come to a polling place without one. It calls for six-foot distancing and a long list of other safety precautions. It also asks for at least one “drive-through” voting operation per county and asks that the court allow counties that want to can extend early voting through the weekend before the primary election.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has already called for as many people as possible to use absentee voting (or mail-in ballots) but Marks says many voters may still need to go to a polling place. She says that’s when safety protection measures need to be implemented and so far she has not seen any actual plans from the state.
“We have a serious concern that the state board of elections and the secretary of state are just kind of leaving it up to whatever happens and it’s a very casual attitude that we’ve seen, the same type of attitude that we’ve seen from the governor who believes we’re ready to get back to normal,” said Marks. “Well, we’re not ready to get back to normal and we’re certainly not ready to get back to normal in a polling place where people interact closely with one another.”
She talked about recent issues in Wisconsin where seven people, six voters and a poll worker, came down with coronavirus after political factions in that state fought over delaying the primary. But Republican lawmakers won out and it was held as scheduled on April 7.
“Georiga does not want to be another Wisconsin,” Marks said.
The lawsuit also says that the state of Georgia’s new $100 million dollars voting system would be potentially dangerous in terms of possibly spreading the virus. The system includes an electronic ballot market device and then the voter takes a piece of paper from that device and takes it to an electronic scanner to have the ballot officially cast.
Marks says there’s a “lot of touching” that has to go one from the voter using a touchpad to check and then a touch screen to cast the ballot, etc. She says sanitizing the ballot marking devices would reportedly require a time-consuming process that if followed, might result in lone lines of voters waiting to use the machines.
She says delaying the primary another three weeks to June 30 would “allow county election offices more time to plan on how to implement important safety features.
She says this could reassure voters but also poll workers, some of whom are indicating they cannot show up on election day because of concerns about their health and safety.
“These changes, if ordered, would let poll workers know they are going to be properly protected,” said Marks. “It hurts everybody’s constitutional rights if polling places cannot operate well and that will have an impact on everyone’s right to have a fair election.”
Raffensperer has told us in the past that absentee ballot requests were sent out to more than 6 million registered voters and again he is encouraging as many as possible to vote by mail.
In a statement to News 3 Wednesday, Raffensperger did not address the issue of moving the primary back again to June 30 but did address the legal action filed.
Groups across the country are disingenuously using a crisis to push their failed policies through the court system. For the liberals, it’s eliminating options for voters and moving to vote by mail. For Marilyn Marks it’s moving the state to hand marked paper ballots.
Georgia voters deserve to have options. During this time, I have taken unprecedented steps to expand awareness of no excuse absentee ballots, as well as, encourage the counties to maintain a clean and healthy in-person experience. As our Secretary of State I will continue to fight disingenuous groups who seek to take away options for voters.