Picture credit - AJC.com

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten signed a voluntary Consent Order negotiated by Jin Kwon, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Secretary of State Robyn A. Crittenden to enjoin enforcement of O.C.G.A. § 21-2-409(b)(2) in future elections, primaries, or run-offs in Georgia, regardless of whether a federal candidate is on the ballot. Secretary Crittenden has issued guidance and direction to all county election superintendents and published information online to inform voters about the terms of this Consent Order.

“In all future elections, primaries, and run-off elections, which includes the December 4, 2018 run-off, all voters who require assistance to vote due to blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may receive assistance by a person of the voter’s choice except for the voter’s employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter’s union. This rule applies regardless of whether there is a federal candidate on the ballot in Georgia,” stated Secretary Crittenden. “Ultimately, both sides were able to reach a satisfactory conclusion in this litigation, and we have taken immediate action to comply with the negotiated terms of the Consent Order.”

All future training conducted by the Secretary of State’s office will be consistent with the Consent Order. County election superintendents have received a copy of the Consent Order and an Official Election Bulletin on complying with the order’s terms. County offices have received a notice and the instruction to post such notice at the entrance of all election day polling places. Secretary Crittenden also published notice online to inform voters who are entitled to voting assistance that they may receive assistance from any person of their choice who meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act at 52 U.S.C. § 10508 and O.C.G.A. § 21-2-409 (b)(1). This notice will remain online until the language of O.C.G.A. § 21-2-409(b)(2) is removed from the Georgia Code.

Now enjoined by the Consent Order, O.C.G.A. § 21-2-409(b)(2) restricted who could provide voter assistance when there was no federal candidate on the ballot. A voter requiring assistance is no longer limited to assistance from a voter who is a resident of the same voting precinct or the voter’s mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or caretaker. With the Order in effect, there is no longer a prohibition on any person assisting more than ten voters in any election, primary, or run-off.

The Consent Order states that county election superintendents may not require individuals assisting voters to check off any boxes on any forms, including those on absentee ballots and absentee ballot envelopes, indicating their relationship to the voters or how many voters that they have assisted. This Order does not prevent county election officials from requiring persons assisting voters to identify themselves, as required by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-409(a). The information is included in the Official Election Bulletin sent to county offices.

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