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Federal judge rules against Ga. over absentee balloting calendar

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A federal judge ruled on Thursday that Georgia’s crunched absentee voting calendar was in violation of federal election laws, ordering state officials to extend the deadline for accepting ballots from overseas military personnel and their families in the event a runoff election arises.

Federal law stipulates that military and overseas residents be mailed absentee ballots at least 45 days prior to an election, but Georgia’s election schedule provides only for three and four weeks in the case of primary and general election runoffs, respectively. That shaves at least a day from federal prescribed tallies in both cases.

When Secretary of State Brian Kemp refused to tweak the timetable, the U.S. Department of Justice pursued an injunction last month in federal court. An order issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said “it is beyond dispute” that state’s the compressed schedule was in violation of election law.

Kemp said DOJ’s action was not an “earnest effort on behalf of military and overseas voters,” instead a “politically motivated stunt” by a politicized law enforcement agency. “The timing and lack of community simply does not allow for any other explanation,” he said last month.

Even in spite of the timing, the courts extended that the deadline of receipt of absentee ballots by one week’s time, to August 31, and ruled Kemp’s office must send by express mail a ballot anyone who requests the expedited service.

The secretary of state was not immediately offering comment on the ruling.

- James Richardson

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