Judge orders Georgia Secretary of State to extend certification deadline and count provisional ballots

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The News: A federal judge has ordered the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office to wait until Friday to certify the results of the midterm election. The judge has also ruled that the secretary of state’s office must allow more time to verify provisional ballots and to engage in a “good faith review” of the eligibility of voters who voted using provisional ballots.

The Lawsuit: The suit was filed by Common Cause Georgia in an effort to extend the deadline for certifying election results and to ensure that provisional ballots, which the organization argued there were statistically more of than in previous elections, would have more time to be certified.

The judge agreed with Common Cause and granted a limited injunction, extending the deadline for vote certification to Friday. The Secretary of State’s Office had previously announced its intent to certify the votes Wednesday.

The Issue: At issue is the security of the state’s voter registration system, which the judge said was not reliable and likely to infringe on the rights of voters.

“Plaintiff has shown a substantial likelihood of proving that the Secretary’s failure to properly maintain a reliable and secure voter registration system has and will continue to result in the infringement of the rights of the voters to cast their vote and have their votes counted,” United States District Judge Amy Totenberg wrote in the court order.

The Ruling: Totenberg ruled that the secretary of state’s office must immediately establish and publicize on its website a secure and free-access hotline or website for provisional ballot voters to access to determine whether or not their ballots were counted and provide a reason why their votes were not counted.

The secretary of state’s office must also direct each of Georgia’s 159 county election superintendents to publicize the hotline or website on each individual county election website.

The court order also prevents the secretary of state’s office from certifying the vote count before 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16.

In addition, the court is ordering the secretary of state’s office to either remit the already certified returns from counties with more than 100 provisional ballots back to the county elections offices and perform a “good faith review” of voter eligibility or to engage in an independent review of provisional ballot information.