Judge clears way for trial in Georgia case against voter challenges

Voting rights group alleges voter challenges amount to illegal intimidation

A lawsuit alleging that mass voter eligibility challenges in Georgia infringed on voting rights is moving toward a trial after a judge ruled that many facts remained in dispute.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones wrote in an 87-page order Thursday that he won’t grant summary judgment to either party in the case, Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group, or True the Vote, a Texas-based organization that contested more than 300,000 voter registrations before runoffs for the U.S. Senate in early 2021.

A trial is needed to decide whether allegations that True the Vote’s efforts to disqualify voters amounted to voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, Jones said in his order. County election boards threw out almost all the voter challenges.

Fair Fight Action alleged that True the Vote targeted racial minorities, offered a $1 million “bounty” for voter challengers, recruited Navy SEALS to oversee polling places and published challenged voters’ names.

True the Vote responded that its challenges were nondiscriminatory, the “bounty” money was intended for legal defense, voters were never directly contacted and voter challenges are allowed under Georgia law.

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True the Vote is preparing for a trial, said its founder, Catherine Engelbrecht.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to tell the full story of what led True the Vote to help electors file voter challenges in Georgia,” Engelbrecht wrote in an email to supporters Monday.

Fair Fight has been opposing voter eligibility challenges in court since December 2020. Since then, Republican activists challenged an additional 92,000 registrations before last year’s general election, most of which were dismissed by county election boards.

“The court’s order confirms our evidence of True the Vote’s tactics warrants a trial,” Fair Fight PAC Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid said. “Our trial will focus on what matters: the protections promised by the Voting Rights Act and how we contend True the Vote violated those protections at the expense of Georgia voters.”