In fall 2010, more than 1,900 Georgia voters serving in the military or living overseas sought applications for absentee ballots in electronic format for the first time. Requests for absentee ballots in electronic format came in from Georgians stationed or living in about 45 countries in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia.
As chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee in the Georgia House of Representatives, I was proud to have worked hard to make this option a reality so that the brave men and women who are defending our nation have the easiest possible time participating in our great democracy.
Georgia’s military and overseas voters were able to access their absentee ballot electronically 45 days prior to election day. To access their ballot, these voters logged on to a secure Web site, printed and cast their ballot, then mailed them back to their county election office. This saved weeks of time previously lost to delivery of blank ballots by mail. The system that delivered these blank ballots was developed in-house within the Georgia secretary of state’s office at no additional cost to Georgia’s taxpayers.
Georgia was one of the first states in the nation to be in full compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act through passage of Georgia House Bill 1073, signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.
However, it now appears that a politically motivated U.S. Department of Justice is willing to put this system into question just one month before our state’s primary election.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez notified the state last week that the Department of Justice had been authorized to file a lawsuit against the state of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp alleging violations of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ballot delivery requirements.
The Department of Justice is alleging that the state of Georgia and the secretary of state’s office would be in violation of UOCAVA if there is a runoff in either the primary or general election.
Were these concerns brought to the state prior to a legislative session where they could have been addressed? No, they came in the form of a lawsuit after our primary ballots had been printed and sent to absentee voters at home and abroad. Georgia literally is in the middle of the primary at this moment.
I cannot believe that this is an earnest attempt to expand voting opportunities for our men and women in uniform. Georgia has an incredible track record on this issue, and even issues write-in runoff ballots with all absentee ballots to ensure that every Georgia citizen has the opportunity to vote in every election in which they choose to vote.
In fact, this system was developed with the Department of Justice in 2005 and has served our state well since then. Can anyone imagine developing a plan with a third party only to have them sue you over it years later? That’s exactly what the Department of Justice is doing with this lawsuit. It doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust and confidence in our federal government, does it?
Maybe instead of coming after a solid and effective voting system like we have in Georgia, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder might choose to focus on plugging the leaks in his Department of Justice.