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Ana Maria Rosato media@acluga.org

September 9, 2020

Requiring citizens to pay any amount of money to put postage on a ballot before it can be counted in an election is an unconstitutional poll tax

ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia filed an appeal in its federal lawsuit on behalf of Black Voters Matter challenging the constitutionality of requiring voters to buy postage stamps when submitting mail-in absentee ballots. This is tantamount to a poll tax. 

The legal claim is straightforward. The United States Constitution bans poll taxes. Postage costs money. Election officials require Georgia voters to pay postage if they want their mail-in absentee ballot to be received, amounting to a poll tax. It is unrealistic for many voters to cast ballots in-person due to age, disability, or out-of-town voters as well as many others due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit is also about historically marginalized voters who live on shoestring budgets and lack access to all the resources that wealthier people take for granted. The state is essentially forcing these voters to pay in order to participate in our democracy.

Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, on April 8, 2020. The District Court dismissed the poll tax claim on August 11, 2020. The appeal challenges that decision and asks that the decision be reversed.    

“Requiring citizens to pay any amount of money to put postage on a ballot before it can be counted in an election is a poll tax and, therefore, an unconstitutional barrier to our sacred right to vote,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia.

“By refusing to provide voters with postage paid envelopes, the secretary of state has not only imposed a poll tax on individual voters, he has placed an undue burden on the organizations dedicated to increasing voter turnout. His failure has forced organizations such as ours and local community groups to shift time and money to dealing with the postage issue,” said  Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter Fund. “Every minute and every dime we spend helping voters to navigate the postage requirement means we have fewer resources for other voter mobilization efforts. Given the history of the secretary of state's office viewing voter mobilization organizations as threats, rather than vital components in strengthening democracy, one can't help but wonder if this undue burden was actually one of his objectives.”

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