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                Georgia federal judges reject two GOP-backed lawsuits to restrict absentee voting

                Federal judges in Georgia?dismissed?two GOP-led lawsuits Thursday that attempted to modify the state’s absentee voting rules ahead of the January 5 Senate run-off elections. The elections will determine control of the Senate in 2021.

                Both lawsuits allege that the mail-in absentee ballot process presents “opportunities to obscure the true identities of persons fraudulently claiming to be legitimate electors” and facilitates “ballot harvesting” practices. The suits were dismissed for lack of standing.

                A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Augusta dismissed the first case, brought by the 12th Congressional District Republican Committee. The lawsuit asserted that a new Georgia voting rule, SEB Rule 183-1-14-0.6-.14, allowed absentee ballots “to be delivered to unattended drop boxes by individuals other than relatives or members of the [voters] with no mechanism to ensure their legitimacy.”

                The second case, brought by the Georgia Republican Party, Inc. and the National Republican Senatorial Committee before the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta,?sought to illustrate perceived problems with the state’s absentee voting process: “signature verification is central to validating absentee ballots and ensuring integrity in how the fastest growing share of the overall vote is counted.” The plaintiffs argued that all signatures should be reviewed by three election workers in order to avoid fraud.

                None of the candidates in either of Georgia’s Senate races won the necessary majority of the vote on November 3. This triggered the need for a run-off, with the top two candidates competing for the vote. In Georgia’s regular Senate election, Democrat Jon Ossoff is challenging Republican Senator David Perdue’s bid for re-election. In the special Senate election, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock. Early in-person and absentee voting has already begun for the races; more than 400,000 people have already cast their votes via absentee ballots.

                Perdue and Loeffler issued a joint statement last week regarding the lawsuits, expressing concern over the “integrity and credibility of our elections system.” “These are reasonable and actionable steps we can take immediately to further ensure the integrity and accuracy of our January 5 elections,” read the statement.

                Currently, the Senate stands at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. The Republican-controlled Senate only needs to win one of the two races to maintain control. Conversely, Democrats will assume the majority if they win both run-offs; Democrat Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaker.

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