Martin v. Kemp

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At a Glance

Gwinnett County, the second largest county in Georgia located northeast of Atlanta, rejected hundreds of mail-in ballots for immaterial errors and omissions. CLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of voters challenging these rejections.

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About this Case

Georgia has struggled with a history of voter suppression and discrimination for decades. Mail-in and early voting are procedures that streamline voting options by making elections more accessible for groups that have typically faced challenges casting a ballot due to laws that restrict voting access.

It was recently discovered that Gwinnett County, the second largest county in Georgia located northeast of Atlanta, rejected hundreds of mail-in ballots, the highest rate in the state. Gwinnett County alone is responsible for 40 percentof the rejected absentee ballots across Georgia. The burden falls disproportionately on voters of color. In the complaint, the plaintiffs note that 9.6 percent of the 4,063 mail-in ballots received through October 12, 2018 were rejected. This is highly unusual as the most populous county in Georgia, Fulton, had not rejected any ballots as of the same date. Gwinnett County’s practices are a clear avenue for officials to effectively shut certain populations out of the voting process. 

Voter suppression and discrimination is expressly prohibited by federal law and in the U.S. Constitution. The Civil Rights Act (CRA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination, segregation, and the unequal application of voter registration requirements. The CRA contains a provision included by Congress that states that immaterial information requests unrelated to determining a voter’s qualifications cannot  pose a barrier to voting. At the time of voting, registrars have already determined that the voters’ age qualifies them to vote before issuing absentee ballots. Any contrary interpretation would also run afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by imposing an undue burden on the right to vote.

On October 22, CLC filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in support of the voters that are challenging Gwinnett County’s rejection of absentee ballots because it violates the plain text of the CRA and Fourteenth Amendment. 

The information requested by elections officials places an unnecessary burden on the voter and Gwinnett County officials do not have a compelling reason to require such information for a citizen to vote. The court should require Gwinnett County to ensure that their citizens are enjoying the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the fundamental right to vote that is their right according to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. It’s important that every eligible voter is able to participate in our democracy. 

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