Gwinnett County has a long history of negligence and engagement with voter suppression tactics. They lack the necessary regard for minority voters – and their extensive legal track record is evidence of this. Their negligence has again come to the forefront of the news cycle due to the controversial comments made by their Elections Chair Alice O’Lenick during the 2020-21 elections cycle, so we have put together a three part series discussing the legislation that has been filed against the county for their voter suppression tactics in the past decade – airing our grievances about Gwinnett’s procedures.
Early Voting Satellite Locations
In February of 2020, the Gwinnett NAACP, Georgia NAACP, and Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda filed a lawsuit in efforts to obtain a temporary restraining order that would force Gwinnett County to open it’s satellite voting precincts for early voting. The seven satellite locations in question had been scheduled to be opened months prior to their decision to exclusively allow early voting at the County’s Voter Registration and Elections Office during their budgeting process, when their Board of Elections approved a budgetary request to open the seven other polling locations during the week of March 2nd. Under that request, these polling locations would have been open from 7am-7pm all seven days of that week.
The Civil Rights groups who filed the lawsuit asserted that this plan placed an undue burden on voters, which is in violation of the U.S. conti. During the two election cycles prior to the then upcoming 2020 March primary, the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections, Gwinnett county voters waited in ridiculously long lines due to the fact that only a single early voting location was open. The 2016 election yielded 5-hour wait times for some Gwinnett minority voters, and caused voters to collapse while waiting on 3 separate reported occasions. In the 2018 midterm elections, voters experienced unreasonable wait timed during the early voting period as well.
“The eleventh-hour attempt to strike early voting opportunities is yet another attempt at voter suppression and a direct violation of constitutional rights,” said Counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law John Powers, who legally assisted in the filing the lawsuit.
Their demand was denied by the U.S. District Court Judge soon after its presentation.
“Just because the right to vote is fundamental does not mean you have the right to vote in any particular manner or language,” said presiding Judge Grimberg. He decided that the alleged burden did not elevate to a constitutional violation.
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In August 2020, the Democratic Party of Georgia and National Democratic Senatorial Committee claimed that the Office of Georgia’s Secretary of State and several county-level elections boards, including Gwinnett County, failed voters due to lack of polling locations, which they said are responsible for the excessively long wait times that voters continue to endure. The lawsuit argues that since at least 2008, Georgia voters have faced the longest wait times of anyone in the country, fault of which they claim can be directly attributed to the defendants, as they are those in positions to correct them.
The lawsuit requested that a federal injunction was filed against the defendants, that required that they amend their current processes to provide enough polling locations and other voting resources ,and distribute said resources equitably to alleviate the burden placed upon voters by the excessively long lines that had been characteristic of existing processes during previous election cycles. The accusers claim that such burdens are a direct result of chronic election mismanagement in Georgia, and demands that the county elections boards and statewide officials they hold responsible are held accountable.
“Since at least 2008, Georgia voters have faced some of the longest average wait times to vote in the entire country, often waiting hours to vote, with many deterred from voting and disenfranchised,” the suit argues, “the causes of these lines are directly traceable to Defendants, who have the power to remedy them.”
The suit also includes several first person accounts from Georgia voters who live in the counties in question, providing evidence of the difficulty many Georgia voters faced while casting ballots during the June 2020 primaries. The suit concluded by emphasizing that the lines that voters must endure place severe burdens on Georgia voters that ultimately result in disenfranchisement.
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Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings?
These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.
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