L. Lin Wood v. Raffensperger

No. 1:20-cv-04651-SDG (N.D. Ga.) | Closed

On March 6, 2020, and in anticipation of a higher than normal absentee ballot election, Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger and the State Election Board entered into a settlement agreement with various Democratic party committees. The agreement set forth standards for clerks and registrars to verify absentee ballot signatures and cure defective ballots.

On November 13, Plaintiff L. Lin Wood, an attorney and registered voter, filed suit complaining that Raffensperger exceeded his authority by entering into an agreement with the Democratic committees. Wood cites State Legislature’s absentee vote process and claims that, while Raffensperger was authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to conduct a fair election, the settlement was inconsistent with the law.  Wood described the revised process as arbitrary, burdensome, and unreliable. He also said that the settlement violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by treating absentee ballots in a manner inconsistent with state law.

Wood sought to prevent Georgia from certifying the state’s results, or at least the ballots that were treated as defective.

This settlement has been referred to as the “Consent Decree” and has been widely criticized by Republicans. As of the date of this suit’s filing, Georgia was undergoing a hand recount of all the ballots with little change to the vote tally. That should not be surprising because the recount only looks at anonymous final ballots, not the signature verification issue raised in the complaint. If defective ballots are included in this recount, it seems unlikely that they could be identified and separated.

Susan Voyles, a poll manager with 20 years’ experience handling ballots, provided an affidavit to support this suit and stop Georgia from certifying its vote count. Voyles’ recounts inexplicable departures from the procedure that lead her to believe that absentee ballots had been added in a fraudulent manner. On the first day, she received a box of ballots that came from an unmarked box. It contained batches of ballots in bunches of 100. One bundle stood out from the rest because it was pristine and had no markings except for the Presidential vote.  In that batch, only two ballots were for Donald Trump. On the second day of counting, she noted that few poll workers arrived on time.  Despite the large volume of ballots to be counted, the early workers were closely monitored and given boxes with very few ballots. When the second batch of poll workers arrived, they were given significantly more ballots. Voyles offered to count more, she was told she was no longer needed and she could go home. These are among just a few of the peculiarities she describes.

After a three-hour hearing on November 19, District Judge Grimberg rejected the suit.  In his November 20 written opinion, he explained that Wood did not have standing because he had not been personally injured and that he had waited too long to argue against the Consent Decree.  That same day, Secretary Raffensperger certified the results of the election and Governor Kemp selected the electors.

Petitioner Wood filed an appeal in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on November 25.  The Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, explaining, in part, that Wood failed to establish standing due to a technicality and that the remedies he requested were moot as the state had already certified the election results.

On December 8, Petitioner Wood filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, presenting two questions:

  1. Whether the Petitioner/voter has standing to challenge state action based on the predicate act of vote dilution where the underlying wrong infringes upon a voter’s right to vote.
  2. Whether a weakening of State Legislature’s signature verification procedures for mail-in voters violates Petitioner’s right to Equal Protection as an in-person voter. 

On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition to hear this case.

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