Three voting rights groups have sued the state of Georgia, claiming sweeping new voting restrictions signed into law Thursday—including limiting ballot drop boxes and shortening voting hours—violate the Voting Rights Act, as Republicans in the state face backlash for passing a bill many considered a voter suppression effort.
The New Georgia Project—which was founded by activist and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams—along with the Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise, Inc. filed a lawsuit against state election officials Thursday evening in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
The suit seeks injunctive action to block new election restrictions outlined in Senate Bill 202—the “Voter Suppression Bill,” as plaintiffs label it—which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday after quickly passing the state House and Senate in votes along party lines.
The bill outlines numerous new constraints when it comes to voting in the state, such as limiting the amount of ballot drop boxes, shortening the early voting period and prohibiting non-poll workers from giving food or water to voters waiting in line.
The lawsuit alleges the bill violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by making it harder for Black Georgians to access ballots, while also claiming it violates the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution by creating an undue burden on the right to vote.
What To Watch For
The signing of the Georgia bill comes as Democrats in Congress continue to move forward with the For the People Act, which would create national voting standards that could largely undue the provisions in the Georgia bill. Republicans have said they will fight tooth and nail to defeat the legislation, leading to a debate among Democrats over getting rid of the Senate filibuster, which would allow for a simple majority vote to pass legislation.
“These provisions lack any justification for their burdensome and discriminatory effects on voting,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, they represent a hodgepodge of unnecessary restrictions that target almost every aspect of the voting process but serve no legitimate purpose or compelling state interest other than to make absentee, early and election-day voting more difficult—especially for minority voters.”
Senate Bill 202 passed the Georgia House Thursday on a party-line 100 to 75 vote, with Republicans in the majority, before being taken up immediately by the GOP-controlled Senate. The Senate quickly passed the bill and it was soon after signed into law by Kemp, who praised it as “another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair,” despite the fact he and top election officials in the state—all Republicans—said recent elections ran smoothly and fairly in Georgia. But that’s not how former President Donald Trump saw it. He continually blasted Kemp and other Georgia officials after his election loss, falsely claiming they had somehow allowed widespread fraud that caused him to lose the state to President Joe Biden. Despite the claims being completely without merit, GOP lawmakers around the country have taken up Trump’s spurious claims by making it a priority to add new voting restrictions in the name of election security. Over 250 bills have been filed in 43 states that would make it harder to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Georgia Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon responded to the bill’s signing by knocking on Kemp’s door, before she was forcibly removed from the area and arrested Thursday evening, while about 100 people reportedly protested outside the state capitol. Democrats and voting rights advocates have slammed the Georgia bill as “Jim Crow 2.0,” along with similar legislation around the country. Biden called GOP efforts to enact new voting restrictions “sick” and “un-American” at a news conference Thursday—the first of his presidency.