Pulpit power: Churches join Abrams group’s elections lawsuit

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The far-reaching lawsuit targeting voter problems filed by Stacey Abrams' group attracted additional firepower on Wednesday as several prominent churches joined the litigation.

Fair Fight Action wants the addition of the congregations to bolster its federal challenge, which seeks to overturn state laws that resulted in obstacles to voting that drew national scrutiny after Gov. Brian Kemp's narrow victory over Abrams.

The new additions are Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr.; Baconton Missionary Church; Virginia-Highland Church; and The Sixth Episcopal District, which represents more than 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia.

“I’m sad to say Georgia is ground zero with this issue,” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who has long used his pulpit at Ebenezer to advocate for voting rights. “We are coming to reclaim our democracy so that the voices of every citizen can indeed be heard.”

The group filed the lawsuit after Abrams ended her campaign for governor against Kemp, who won by roughly 55,000 votes. Throughout the race, she accused Kemp of misusing his role as the state’s elections chief to tilt the playing field.

The group's lawsuit, which is still pending in federal court, alleges that the purge of voter registrationscancellations of absentee ballotsclosing of polling precincts and dismissal of provisional ballots undermines democracy.

State officials want a judge to throw out the lawsuit, and filed a recent motion contending that isolated issues during November's election don't indicate a need for broad federal intervention. The state also argues that any changes to election laws should be made by lawmakers, not the courts.

Kemp has vehemently denied accusations that he abused his office’s power and said he followed state laws designed to ensure that only eligible Georgia voters can vote. And his allies say he’s often blamed for problems, such as lengthy lines at polling stations, that are the responsibility of local, not state, officials.

The new plaintiffs were unveiled at an Atlanta church during an event that featured several Georgians who described troubles casting ballots.

Two leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus also echoed calls for more federal oversight of elections outlined Tuesday at a U.S. House hearing in Atlanta.

“It’s made me quite angry listening to the struggles of people who couldn’t exercise the fundamental right to vote,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia.

“There’s a systemic approach to disenfranchising voters in Georgia and it was effective,” he said. “We cannot let it happen again.”

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