Churches Sue to Block New Georgia Voting Laws
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Lawsuit Takes Aim at Georgia Voting Laws Passed to ‘Appease Conspiracy Theorists’ About the 2020 Election Cycle

Voters line up for the first day of early voting outside of the High Museum polling station on December 14, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.

A collection of civil rights groups and churches on Tuesday filed yet another lawsuit which challenges recent changes to voting procedures in the State of Georgia. The new laws, which were recently a part of a senate bill known as S.B. 202, have been widely criticized as restrictions on the right to vote. The lawsuit says S.B. 202 was “passed in a hostile, racially charged environment following the General Election and Runoff Elections” which ousted various Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, from elected office.

Trump’s name appears nowhere in the lawsuit. He is referred to as the “losing presidential candidate” of the 2020 cycle.

The plaintiffs in the case are the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, the Latino Community Fund Georgia, and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and law firms WilmerHale and Davis Wright Tremaine. The named defendants are Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), and a plethora of other officials.

The ACLU said in a statement that the new Georgia laws “make[] it much harder for all Georgians to vote, particularly voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities.” It also alleges a nexus between the new laws and the “record turnout of voters, particularly Black voters” in the “2020 presidential election and the 2021 runoff elections” for senate.

The SPLC’s Nancy Abudu said the new laws were passed “to appease conspiracy theorists” rather than to “expand safe and secure access to the ballot, codify innovations to voting, and provide additional resources to cash-strapped counties.”

The lawsuit challenges Georgia’s new bans on mobile voting; voter identification requirements for absentee ballots; the time frame during which absentee ballots may be requested; restrictions on ballot drop boxes; reductions on early voting; and the criminalization of the provision of water or food to voters standing in line.

Voters of color “wait in needlessly long lines to cast their vote,” the ACLU said. Embedded within the lawsuit is one of these tweets (we’re including both for additional context):

“This law is driven by blatant racism, represents politics at its very worst, and is clearly illegal,” said Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We urge the court to act swiftly to strike it down.”

“Democracy depends upon people expressing their voices freely through their votes,” said Debo P. Adegbile of the law firm WilmerHale. “The Georgia omnibus voting obstruction law is a prime example of modern voter suppression and erodes democracy. A great deal has changed in Georgia but the commitment to brazenly disenfranchise voters clearly has not.”

The lawsuit itself rubbishes claims that 2020 election cycle, which included subsequent runoff elections in Georgia, was somehow not up to snuff:

The General Election in Georgia was celebrated not only because of record turnout, but also because of its integrity. The losing presidential candidate and his allies launched an unsubstantiated attack on the integrity of the election and sought to reverse its results, claiming that it was beset by fraud. But each of the baseless allegations underlying this attack were rebuked, both by judges in lawsuits and by Georgia’s own state and local election officials. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger affirmed that the election was “secure, reliable, and efficient.” Indeed, his office conducted a comprehensive audit and investigation of the claims of wrongdoing, which showed, as Secretary Raffensperger wrote to Congress, “that there is nowhere close to sufficient evidence to put in doubt the result of the presidential contest in Georgia,” and that they were not “seeing anything out of the ordinary scope of regular post-election issues.” Governor Kemp has disputed unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in Georgia, calling those conspiracy theories “simply a distraction.” Lieutenant Governor Duncan also pushed back against the “amount of misinformation that continues to fly around.” Specifically, he noted that he was troubled that “some folks are willing, just for the sole intent of flipping an election, of spreading misinformation.” Georgia Voting Systems Manager Gabriel Sterling has also refuted allegations and conspiracy theories of election fraud, stating that “[e]verybody’s vote did count [in November].”

Yet Kemp went on to sign SB 202 anyway.

The document goes on to allege that “Georgia has a long history and ongoing record of imposing voting restrictions in a racially discriminatory manner”:

S.B. 202 is nothing new—it builds on a long line of official actions taken for invidious purposes. Georgia’s history of racially discriminatory voting practices is well-established and judicially-recognized. Georgia’s long history of voter suppression dates back to the post-Civil War period when the Ku Klux Klan used widespread violence to intimidate Black and Republican voters to re-establish white supremacy. Georgia’s Black voters have historically been disenfranchised through a variety of election laws, including grandfather clauses, literacy tests, poll taxes, and the adoption of “white primaries.”

The Fourteenth Amendment granted Black men the right to vote in 1868. That same year, 33 Black members were elected to the Georgia General Assembly, who were subsequently expelled “solely on account of color.”

A lengthy recitation of the state’s transgressions dating back more than a century is included.

The lawsuit alleges five claims for relief: (1) a violation of the Voting Rights Act (Intentional Racial Discrimination & Discriminatory Results); (2) a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (Intentional Race Discrimination); (3) a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment and civil rights laws (Intentional Race Discrimination in Voting); (4) a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and civil rights laws (Undue Burden on the Right to Vote); (5) a violation of the First Amendment and underlying civil rights laws (Freedom of Speech and Expression).

The lawsuit seeks as follows: (1) a declaration that many of the new Georgia voting laws are illegal and unconstitutional; (2) a permanent injunction to prevent state and local officials from enforcing the new Georgia laws; (3) costs, expenses, and reasonable attorneys’ fees; and (4) any other relief the court deems necessary.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.

Read the 91-page filing below:

Sixth District of the Afric… by Law&Crime

[image via Jessica McGowan/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.