The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has today filed a new federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s new S.B. 202 law that according to the ACLU “makes it much harder for all Georgians to vote, particularly voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities.”
According to a statement issued by the human rights group, “ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and law firms WilmerHale and Davis Wright Tremaine brought the case on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.”
ACLU surmises that the record turnout of voters, particularly those belonging to racial minorities, is what prompted the passage of the S.B. 202 by the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate and well as it being signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp in under seven hours last week. ACLU said, “The elections were celebrated not just for their turnout, but also for their integrity, with Georgia officials praising them as safe and secure. But rather than act to expand participation in the political process, Georgia leaders responded by doing what they have done many times in the state’s history: they placed burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters, particularly voters of color and other historically disenfranchised communities.”
ACLU’s lawsuit challenges the following provisions of S.B. 202:
- ban on mobile voting
- new narrow identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot
- delayed and compressed time period for requesting absentee ballots
- restrictions on secure drop boxes
- out-of-precinct provisional ballot disqualification
- drastic reduction in early voting in runoff elections
- perhaps most cruelly, ban on “line warming,” where volunteers provide water and snacks to Georgians, disproportionately those of color, who wait in needlessly long lines to cast their vote
According to ACLU these provisions “violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and infringe on Georgians’ rights under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
“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, adding, “We urge the court to act swiftly to strike it down.”
“Legislators and Governor Kemp ignored the very obvious lessons from the election in 2020 and runoffs in 2021: expand safe and secure access to the ballot, codify innovations to voting, and provide additional resources to cash-strapped counties,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Instead, to appease conspiracy theorists and amplify deadly lies about past elections, Georgia’s leaders have chosen to pass into law S.B. 202, which makes it more difficult for every Georgian — but particularly Georgians who are members of historically disenfranchised communities — to vote in a safe, secure, and convenient manner and have that vote counted. In so doing, the defendants have violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and we turn to the federal courts and U.S. Congress to address the incredible harm S.B. 202 will have on our clients,” she explained.
Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel called the SB 202 “most bold and shameful voter suppression legislation enacted in the modern era.” She said, “Its purpose and target are clear: to create barriers to voting for Black voters who turned out in record numbers for the November 2020 presidential election and the January 2021 special election. The provisions of the new law and the manner in which it was enacted reflect a thorough disregard for the sanctity of protecting the right to vote and a headlong and determined zeal to diminish Black political power in Georgia.”
The entire complaint may be read here.
This new lawsuit comes close at the heels of the two lawsuits; one filed by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Georgia and one by Black Voters Matter (BVM). Both lawsuits were filed on March 29, 2021.
“The NAACP Georgia State Conference, alongside the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Common Cause, and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, are suing Secretary of State Raffensperger and members of the State Election Board to prevent them from enforcing any provisions of SB 202 – Georgia’s new voting law that is designed to restrict the right of Georgia citizens to vote,” said a statement by the NAACP Georgia. The lawsuit states that SB 202 is a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate based on race, and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as undue burdens on the right to vote and the right to free speech and freedom of association.
“When Kemp allowed passage of the SB 202 bill last week, he made an intentional decision to suppress Black voting power. When Governor Kemp signed into law SB 202 bill last week, with a picture of a plantation on the wall behind him, he was championing the Jim Crow-era policies of the past. This bill, which severely restricts voting access statewide, comes after Black voters delivered unprecedented turnout in last year’s election with record-breaking participation in absentee and early voting,” said Black Voters Matter.
Ever since the voter suppression legislation was rushed through, it has drawn sharp criticism from all quarters, including President joe Biden. But Governor Brian Kemp has justified the move.
*Feature image by Anthony Crider via Wikimedia Commons.