The Georgia gubernatorial race trudged on today, with Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams still trailing Republican Brian Kemp. As it currently stands, Abrams would need to gain 20,000 votes to trigger a runoff election. She might make up some of those votes through absentee ballots, which have been the subject of controversy as the election drags on.
Now, Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden has instructed county officials to count all absentee ballots with an verifiable voter name, even if they are missing a date of birth, according to AJC. The deadline by which the officials must count all the votes is tomorrow.
Gwinnett County will likely be most effected by this instruction. Election officials there rejected 1,587 absentee ballots due to insufficient return information or incorrect birth dates, despite the state law saying those ballots were admissible. The uncounted ballots in Gwinnett, which went for Hillary Clinton by 6 points 2016, are likely to be votes for Abrams.
“What is required is the signature of the voter and any additional information needed for the county election official to verify the identity of the voter,” Crittenden wrote in his statement. “Therefore, an election official does not violate [state law] when they accept an absentee ballot despite the omission of a day and month of birth ... if the election official can verify the identity of the voter.”
These instructions, issued after a unanimous vote by the State Election Board, aren’t binding, but their wording worried some Democrats.
State Election Board member David Worley, a Democrat, said he’s “deeply disturbed” by Crittenden’s letter.
“It makes it sound permissive, that counties can reject an absentee ballot if they want to,” Worley said. “It’s a cheap, underhanded trick to allow some counties to reject ballots that federal law requires that they count. Frankly, I think it’s despicable.”
Many on the Board defended their staff’s conduct and decision making during the counting process.
“There are definitely different political points of view [on the elections board], but we do agree that our staff has acted in the way that the law stated they should act,” Gwinnett Elections Board Chairman Stephen Day, a Democrat, told AJC. “We do understand that there are different interpretations of that.”
Gwinnett County was expected to be a battleground, and vote counting there is often challenging, with many ballots thrown out due to missing voter information.
During the campaign, leaked audio revealed Kemp complaining about the number of people casting absentee ballots.
Every county in Georgia is required to certify their votes by tomorrow at 5 pm.