Federal judge finds Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act by rejecting ballots

A federal judge on Tuesday found that Gwinnett County violated the Civil Rights Act in its handling of absentee ballots during last week's midterm elections, a ruling that will likely delay the overall vote tally in the state's tight gubernatorial race.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May wrote in a 17-page order that the county was found to be acting in violation of the Civil Rights Act with its rejection of absentee ballots solely on the basis of an omitted or incorrect birth year.

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The decision comes as votes continue to be counted in the gubernatorial contest between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. The GOP nominee leads Abrams in unofficial vote tallies, but the Democrat’s campaign said it is confident there are enough uncounted votes in her favor to force a Dec. 4 runoff.

Tuesday's ruling was handed down a day after a different federal judge ordered state election officials to preserve and count provisional ballots filed for the governor's race. That judge also ruled that Georgia election officials cannot certify the election until Friday at 5 p.m.

May's order said Gwinnett County is hereby “enjoined from rejecting absentee ballots containing an error or omission relating to the absentee voter's year of birth” and has been ordered to count such ballots in this year’s midterm elections.

May, who was nominated by President Obama, noted that although the decision arrives in the midst of “many hotly contested and highly publicized elections issues across the State,” the relief granted by the order finds the “narrow set of ballots” should be counted.

The ruling also will affect vote tallies in the House race for Georgia's 7th Congressional District, which is still too close to call. Rep. Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallGOP struggles to find right Republican for Rules Dem challenger concedes to incumbent Woodall in Georgia's 7th District Election Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP MORE (R) is defending his seat against Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux.

The order stems from a case challenging Georgia's statutory procedures for rejecting absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots brought by plaintiffs Rhonda J. Martin, Dana Bowers, Jasmine Clark, Smythe DuVal, Jeanne Dufort and the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda against Robyn A. Crittenden, who now serves as Georgia secretary of state following the recent resignation of Kemp from that position.