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Georgia county ordered to extend absentee ballot deadline in runoff election

By Brian Rokus, CNN

A superior court judge in Georgia has ordered Cobb County to extend its deadline for accepting absentee ballots in the US Senate runoff after a lawsuit claimed that numerous voters who had applied for absentee ballots had not received them.

The suit, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU, cited specific examples of voters who had applied for absentee ballots before the November 26 deadline yet had still not received their ballots.

The court ordered Cobb County to extend the deadline to receive absentee ballots until December 9, provided the ballots are postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day. It also directed the county to publish a notice on its website stating that any voter who has not yet received an absentee ballot may vote in person at their assigned polling location on Election Day.

“A delay in sending absentee ballots to voters who timely requested them may infringe upon Plaintiffs’ right (and all other Affected Voters) to vote under the Georgia Constitution,” Judge Kellie Hill wrote.

Cobb County, which incorporates a large part of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, is a heavily populated area in Northwest Georgia. The city’s outer northern suburbs have historically reported Republicans, but many of these areas like parts of Cobb have moved toward Democrats in recent years.

The judge noted that Cobb County has disputed that ballots were not issued in a timely manner. The county claimed that absentee ballot applications received before November 26 were properly processed and that ballots were issued or mailed “as soon as possible upon determining their eligibility” and that for applications received after that date, ballots were mailed “within three days after receiving a timely application.”

Poy Winichakul, senior staff attorney for voting rights with the Southern Poverty Law Center, praised the decision in a statement, writing: “We encourage all Georgia communities to stand up for their voting rights by exercising them and voting in person or hand delivering their absentee ballots to ensure their voices are heard.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, called the court’s order a “horrible idea,” writing in a statement that “last-minute changes are unfair, lead to confusion (which just leads to more judges trying to make more last-minute changes,) and gives fodder to those who are not inclined to accept the election results.”

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CNN’s Jason Morris contributed to this report.

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