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'Victory for the Voters': As GOP Tries to Rush Process, Federal Court Orders Georgia to Review All Provisional Ballots

"The right to vote is fundamental...The Georgians who voted in this election deserve better than what the state wanted to give them."

Thousands of provisional ballots remained to be counted in Georgia's gubernatorial race Tuesday. (Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Voting rights groups applauded their latest victory in Georgia on Tuesday after a federal court ruled that tens of thousands of provisional ballots that were given out on Election Day must be counted—foiling Republican attempts to rush through the tallying of votes in the state's closely-watched gubernatorial race.

Following U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg's ruling Monday night, the state will not be permitted to certify election results until Friday, allowing election officials time to count as many as 27,000 provisional ballots which were given to voters whose names were not on the rolls last Tuesday. Georgia was also ordered to provide voters with the hotline number that they can call to make sure their votes are counted and release information about all of the provisional ballots that were cast.

"Today's ruling is a victory for the voters of Georgia. We are all stronger when every eligible voter is allowed to participate in our elections," Sara Henderson, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in a statement late Monday night. "This victory helps achieve greater voter confidence in our elections."

With all provisional ballots being counted, the race may be more likely to head to a run-off election between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. As of Tuesday, Kemp had 50.3 percent of the vote while Abrams held 48.8 percent, putting her one-third of a percentage point away from being able to demand a run-off election.

"I am fighting to make sure our democracy works for and represents everyone who has ever put their faith in it. I am fighting for every Georgian who cast a ballot with the promise that their vote would count." —Stacey Abrams

Many Georgians were unable to vote with an official ballot because their registration status had been changed to pending without their knowledge due to clerical errors under the state's "exact match" rule—one that had been pushed by Republican candidate Brian Kemp, Georgia's secretary of state until last Thursday. About 70 percent of the 53,000 voters who were subject to "exact match" were African-American.

"The right to vote is fundamental, and no one should lose that right because of mistakes in the voter registration database. The Georgians who voted in this election deserve better than what the state wanted to give them," said Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center for Justice, which joined Common Cause in suing the state over the counting of ballots.

The ruling is a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who has implored Abrams to "move on." The president has suggested that Democratic candidates whose race results remain unclear this week should simply accept the vote tallies that came in last Tuesday, writing in a tweet about Florida's election recount on Monday, "Must go with Election Night!"

While Trump and Kemp have suggested that Abrams is attempting to "steal" the election by ensuring all votes are counted, the Democratic candidate has publicized the number voters can call to find out if their ballots have been officially tallied, telling her supporters that her refusal to concede the election is not just about her victory—but restoring the democratic process which her opponent has attempted to gut for months.

"I am fighting to make sure our democracy works for and represents everyone who has ever put their faith in it. I am fighting for every Georgian who cast a ballot with the promise that their vote would count," Abrams wrote on Instagram on Sunday. "Over the last few days, our Voter Protection Hotline has heard countless stories of Georgia voters who fought for their right to vote, but for whatever reason, were prevented from casting their ballot. Their voices deserve to be heard. They deserve justice. And that is why we will continue this fight."

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