State Election Board launches 2nd investigation into Cobb County after issue with absentee ballots

The Georgia State Election Board told Channel 2 Action News they have launched their second investigation into Cobb County’s management of absentee ballots after the board learned some voters did not receive their ballots in a timely matter for the Dec. 6 runoff.

The Cobb County Board of Elections Director confirmed the new investigation to Channel 2 on Thursday after an emergency meeting.

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“The Board is committed to assuring voters that our system, including the absentee voting process works fairly and according to the law. We will be vigilant to investigate conduct that may impact the trustworthiness of our voting process,” Chair of the State Election Board, William S. Duffey, Jr. said.

Janine Eveler, the Cobb County Board of Elections Director said that all of the absentee ballots that were requested were mailed, but the Thanksgiving holiday could cause some delays on the receiving end.

“There were ballots that we issued on the 23rd that people were expecting to receive on Friday or Saturday, but those ballots were issued the day before Thanksgiving, so the county was closed on Thanksgiving and the day after. On Saturday, we started running that report for the 23rd and packing those ballots, so those didn’t actually go out until Monday and maybe some even held over until Tuesday. That’s quite a delay caused by the holiday when we aren’t working,” Eveler said.

This makes the second investigation opened against Cobb County since the 2022 election cycle.

The first investigation was opened after elections officials revealed the Cobb election office failed to mail more than 1,000 absentee ballots.

That discovery came after some Cobb County residents reported that they had not received the absentee ballots they requested.

Elections and Registrations Director Janine Eveler blamed that situation on human error.

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“I am sorry that this office let these voters down,” Eveler said in a message to the Board of Elections and Registration. “Many of the absentee staff have been averaging 80 or more hours per week, and they are exhausted. Still, that is no excuse for such a critical error.”

The investigation determined that 1,046 requested absentee ballots were never mailed.

On Dec. 2, a Cobb County Superior Court judge entered an order that allows voters who applied for absentee ballots on or before November 26, 2022, to have their absentee ballots counted if they are postmarked by 7:00 pm on December 6, 2022, and received by mail on or before December 9, 2022, the same day absentee ballots are allowed to be received under the Uniformed and Overseas Voters Act.

Channel 2 Action News reached out to the Cobb County elections office for comment and received the following statement:

The Cobb Board of Elections is aware of and will cooperate with the State Board of Elections’ investigations into the County’s absentee ballot processes. When litigation was initiated related to absentee ballot distribution during the general election and absentee ballot application processing for the runoff, our attorneys worked with the plaintiffs to reach an agreement on the terms of consent orders to ensure voters that requested absentee ballots received one and would have their vote counted.

Voting by absentee ballot has become increasingly popular, with Cobb County issuing more absentee ballots than any county in the state during the runoff. Our office and other elections offices across the state face challenges created by this increased demand and the reduced timelines for absentee ballot processing and distribution mandated under SB202.  The Cobb Board of Elections and Registration is committed to reviewing and updating our processes and procedures following the December 6 runoff and will incorporate any findings from state officials into our review and updates.

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