Breaking News: Georgia Sued Over Rejecting Absentee Ballots at High Rate

A group of five Georgia voters has named Secretary of State Brian Kemp, each member of the state’s Board of Elections, and each member of Gwinnett County’s board of elections in a lawsuit over how mail-in absentee ballots are handled.

The current system, the lawsuit claims, imposes “various arbitrary requirements, alone and in combination, [that] burden the right to vote, serve no legitimate governmental purpose that cannot be accomplished by more tailored means, and threaten to disenfranchise thousands of honest, eligible voters each year.”

Filed days after WhoWhatWhy broke an exclusive story on mail-in ballot rejection rates, the lawsuit asks for clarity in state law, and for supervision and greater transparency of the mail-in ballot review process…

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Exclusive: High Rate of Absentee Ballot Rejection Reeks of Voter Suppression

Pearlie Williams is an elderly black woman who lives in Gwinnett, Georgia’s most diverse county, both racially and economically. Like so many other African Americans who are excited about the possibility of making Democrat Stacey Abrams the first black female governor in US history — but are worried about the reliability of voting machines — she cast an absentee ballot this year.

Her ballot has been rejected — a fate she shares with many other people of color this year…

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This story became national news and was featured on MSNBC. CNN, McClatchy, ProPublica and the Washington Post, among others, picked up on this story as a result of my reporting.

Group Asks Court to Return Accountability and Transparency to Georgia Elections

Though a federal judge ruled recently that it is too late for Georgia to switch to paper ballots ahead of the midterms, an advocacy group hopes that the same court will force Peach State officials to take several steps to make the upcoming elections more secure and transparent.

Emboldened by the judge’s apparent support for their underlying concerns, the election integrity group Coalition for Good Governance (CGG) and four Georgia voters have filed a motion asking the court to mandate that election officials do the following…

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Former guards allege pattern of inmate abuse at NC county jail

MURPHY — Inmates at the Cherokee County Detention Center were repeatedly ordered to beat up other inmates, according to two former Sheriff’s Office employees who allege a pattern of mismanagement at the jail that has lasted over several years.

This comes on top of two separate and ongoing State Bureau of Investigation inquiries into the July death of one inmate a few hours after his arrest and into a May altercation among another inmate and two guards.

Joseph Preston Allen, a former sergeant with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office who retired in March after 11 years working at the jail, described the coerced fights among inmates. In some cases, he said, officers would target an inmate for a beating and then leave the inmate’s cell unlocked intentionally, prompting attacks by multiple other inmates…

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Carolina Public Press

We Don’t Know How Many LGBTQ Youth Are in N.C.’s Juvenile Justice System. That’s a Problem.

North Carolina is one of just three states, along with Alaska and Oklahoma, that don’t explicitly protect LGBTQ youth in their juvenile justice systems from discrimination, according to the advocacy organization Lambda Legal. Now, a year after a reporter first began inquiring about the state’s policy, that’s about to change—somewhat.

The N.C. Department of Public Safety, which oversees the juvenile justice division, is awaiting federal approval of a new policy to protect LGBTQ youth in juvenile detention facilities or prisons. This change will likely affect hundreds of LGBTQ adolescents and teens each year, a group that is overrepresented in the country’s juvenile justice systems and whose members are targeted for physical and sexual assault, federal studies show…

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Indy Week

Recognizing race in North Carolina’s kitchens

The Carolina Food Summit gathered in a converted barn with a tin roof that sounded like rain when it warmed up and expanded. Pecans from the shade tree detoured off the metal sheets on their way to the ground, clanging like wooden spoons against old aluminum pots and pans. With the sliding doors rolled open, the barn treated guests to a cross-current of breezes on the warm September day.

In this idyllic space, in the barn next to the big farm house, the Summit convened nonprofit leaders, restauranteurs, scholars, writers, and chefs to talk about how national attention on food in the South could be used to improve North Carolina’s food systems…

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Education NC

Holding jails accountable?

Despite holding about 17,000 of the roughly 54,000 people behind bars on any given day in North Carolina, the state’s jails collectively report a small fraction of information compared to what is shared by the state’s prison system. Almost every county keeps digital records, coordinates with other government agencies, and reports certain records to the state, yet a centralized database for jails across the state’s 100 counties does not exist.

The lack of reported data severely limits efforts to improve the justice system, to provide care to ill people, to keep people out of jail for poverty, and to hold jails accountable to a consistent standard…

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Media Hub

In Trump country, immigration invaluable to the community

ALBERTSON, N.C. – With the tractor’s hydraulic line broken, the Murphys, farmers from Duplin County, had no choice but to collect hay bales by hand. What would have taken Linda Murphy 30 minutes with a tractor instead took seven men the better part of a Saturday afternoon.

Rain was in the forecast. Without the men, Mexican laborers here on temporary visas, Morris Murphy could have faced selling wet hay, hurting his profits.

With its aging white population, high poverty rates, and economy dependent on agriculture and manufacturing, Duplin County is like many around the country that swung hard right in November’s election…

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Media Hub

Data on South’s unregistered voters show opportunities for civic engagement

Across the 13 Southern states,* over 23 million U.S. citizens were not registered to vote for the November 2016 general election — 30 percent of the region’s citizen population…

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Facing South