Voting Rights in Georgia
In Georgia, there are two alternate voting methods: advance voting and absentee ballots. These two voting methods are primarily used for flexibility for casting an election ballot in the election. There are no restrictions on a voter using the absentee ballot method. Additionally, a voter who requests an absentee ballot by mail is not required to provide a reason why he or she is voting absentee. While absentee voting in currently used, in the past, voters work schedules or family responsibilities hindered them from voting in the election.
The Law in Action
Quitman is a small city located in South Georgia. It has a population of 5,000 people, which is comprised of approximately 67% of African Americans. In 2008, a group of the town’s citizens went around encouraging local residents to register to vote because of the importance of their vote. This promotion served well as it resulted in hundreds of newly registered voters. The African-American community of Quitman chose three candidates to run for political office. Relying heavily on advance voting and voting via absentee ballot, the three African-Americans candidates beat white incumbents in the primary election and eventually in the November election where the incumbents entered as write-in candidates.
Almost immediately following the election, the GBI started a voter fraud investigation against the activists. On December 21, 2010, ten activists were arrested for voter fraud. The following November 2011, two more activists were arrested. The twelve arrested following the investigation were Angela Bryant, Sandra Cody, Debra Dennard, Dr. Nancy Dennard, Robert Dennard, Kechia Harrison, Latashia Head, Brenda Monds, April Proctor, Lula Smart, Elizabeth Thomas and Linda Troutman. They are called the “Quitman 12.”
The Brooks County residents were indicted on November 22, 2011, on several counts of alleged unlawful possession of ballots that favored the board members and interfering with an elector in the 2010 Brooks County school board election. Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal removed Dr. Nancy Dennard and Linda Troutman from their positions on the school board via executive order, a strange and extreme move considering the fact neither one of these highly qualified educators has been convicted of their alleged crimes. The three suspended Board members were disenfranchised from their position when they were removed from office on January 10, 2012. To date, the case is still pending against the Quitman 12.
Rufus Law, LLC
Attorney Tiffany M. Simmons and Rufus Law, LLC emphatically supports the Georgia voting process, in particular voting via absentee ballot. Allowing individuals to vote through the absentee ballots is important to allow everyone to have a voice in an election. Attorney Simmons is one of the 12 attorneys working on the “Quitman 12” case. Rufus Law sends condolences to the family of Latashia Head who passed away since the beginning of this case.