Groups Allege New Law Threatens the Right to Vote of all Georgians, But Its Most Negative Impacts Will be Felt by Communities That Were Specifically Targeted by Legislature
(ATLANTA) – The Republican-led Georgia State Legislature passed the anti-democratic SB202 to suppress and obstruct statewide voter turnout and further impede the possibility of increased voting from African-Americans and other communities of color, a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia said.
The groups are suing to block voter restrictions included in SB202, legislation signed into law days ago by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. Specifically, the lawsuit names as defendants Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Rebecca Sullivan, David Worley, Matthew Mashburn, and Anh Le, in their official capacities as members of the Georgia State Election Board.
According to the lawsuit, in enacting SB 202, the Georgia Legislature is using racial discrimination as a means to achieve a partisan end. Their efforts to try and restrict voting access, as required by SB202 , constitute intentional discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
SB202 includes provisions that target and make early in-person voting, voting by absentee ballot, and using ballot drop boxes more difficult, all of which were used much more extensively by voters of color than voting in-person on election day. Furthermore, SB202 removes the voting power of the Secretary of State on the State Elections Board, and allows the State Election Board to take over county election boards, which would give the State Elections Board unprecedented authority to target jurisdictions with a large population of Black voters and other voters of color.
The following are statements from leaders and activists involved in the case:
“Georgia state lawmakers are making it more difficult to vote, criminalizing ordinary voter assistance, and then lying to their own constituents to suggest it is for their own good,” said Damon Hewitt, acting president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “By limiting access to absentee ballots and early voting, they are targeting communities of color, who are a growing part of the state’s electorate. These actions show that discriminatory voter suppression is alive and well and it cannot stand.”
“It is unfortunate that Georgians were lied to because some did not like the results of the 2020 elections,” said Helen Butler, executive director, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. “However, passing legislation that gives the majority party too much control over our elections while also creating barriers to voters in a rushed and non-transparent process is not the solution to those lies. Our focus is protecting Georgian’s right to vote. And that is why we have taken this necessary step.”
“The right to vote is central to our democracy,” said Vilia Hayes, senior pro bono counsel at Hughes Hubbard & Reed. “Democracy works best when all citizens can vote and we are proud to be an active participant in voter protection.”
“The thinly-veiled attempt to roll back the progress we have made to empower Georgians – to use their voices in the democratic process – creates an arbitrary law that does not improve voter confidence, secure election integrity nor increase access to the ballot box,” said Rev. James Woodall, state president of the Georgia NAACP.
“Rushing SB 202 through the legislative process without sufficient study or full vetting by both chambers of the General Assembly does not increase voter confidence in elections, and ultimately will not improve election integrity,” said Susannah Scott, president of the League of Women Voters of Georgia. “The unintended consequences of this hastily cobbled-together bill will negatively impact voters throughout Georgia, but the harm that will be done to BIPOC voters is obvious and intentional.”
“The intent of this new law was to discriminate against minority and poor voters in Georgia,” said Jerry Gonzalez, chief executive officer of GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Inc. “Our communities will stand together to work against these Jim Crow tactics pushing to take our state backwards.”
“This bill was rammed through the process without public participation or a fiscal analysis,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “It’s easy to see the reason why – this bill makes it harder for Black and Brown communities on the margins to vote, and it allows a legislatively-controlled state board to takeover county elections offices and potentially interfere with election certification. This has nothing to do with the ‘public interest’ – it’s a partisan effort to maintain power during the 2022 elections.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.