Daniel White, the attorney for the Cobb County elections department, speaks at a press conference Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, to address absentee ballots that were requested but never mailed. The office is sending out absentee ballots to voters who did not receive them and a judge is allowing the county to count those ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 14. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Taylor Croft | Atlanta Journal-Constitution| November 7, 2022

Cobb Elections will accept absentee ballots through Nov. 14 for those who did not receive them on time

A Cobb County judge agreed to extend the absentee ballot return deadline during an emergency hearing Monday after Cobb Elections officials failed to send up to 1,036 ballots to voters in October, an initial investigation found.

“We know it wasn’t the voters’ fault, we know it wasn’t the post office’s fault,” said Daniel White, the attorney for the elections office. “This was an administrative error.

“We want to give everyone as much time as possible.”

Of the 1,036 voters who requested absentee ballots and could have been affected by the error, some canceled their absentee ballots and voted in person, and 716 have not yet voted, White said at a press conference after the hearing.

White added that the county overnighted ballots to most of those 716 voters, and will send the last 276 Monday night.

Four out-of-state absentee voters and the Cobb County Democracy Center, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, filed suit against Cobb elections department Sunday.

The lawsuit asked the judge to extend the deadline to return ballots and ensure voters are contacted and sent an absentee ballot through overnighted mail.

Cobb elections officials agreed.

Under state law, absentee ballots are supposed to be mailed within three days after election officials receive requests during the three weeks before Election Day. Then, those ballots must be received by the elections office by 7 p.m. on Election Day, except for military and overseas voters, whose ballots must be received by Nov. 14.

The consent order, signed Monday by Judge Kellie Hill, will allow the county to accept absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, even if they are received later. For those who do not receive their ballots by Election Day, the consent order will allow them to print and mail a federal write-in absentee ballot, which is designed for military and overseas voters.

The election results will be certified Nov. 15. White said extending the deadline will “allow our office to accept as many ballots as possible up to the day of certification.”
All ballots must be postmarked by Election Day to be accepted in accordance with state law, White said.

Rahul Garabadu, a voting rights attorney at the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement the county’s mistake “resulted in a huge error and hundreds of voters at risk of being disenfranchised.”

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Elections Director Janine Eveler said it was “a completely human error” after one employee failed to run the ballots through the machine.

“We’re so sorry to these voters,” Eveler said. “The employee who was responsible is sick about it ... Many of my staff have worked over 80 hours a week over the last three weeks.”

After Election Day, the department will look at adjusting the process to ensure a mistake like this does not happen again, Eveler said.

Election workers are actively contacting voters via email and mailing absentee ballots with overnight postage today to ensure receipt as quickly as possible.