Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sued the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday over its response to his request for documents that he believes could show political motivations behind a federal lawsuit against the state’s voting law.
Raffensperger, a Republican running for reelection, said his lawsuit seeks to compel the government to turn over any communications, if they exist, between the Department of Justice and dozens of his political and legal opponents.
Raffensperger’s court action is the latest reaction to a major lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in June that is trying to strike down Georgia’s voting law, alleging it targeted Black voters by limiting absentee voting with additional voter ID requirements, shorter deadlines, fewer drop boxes, provisional ballot rejections and a ban on handing out food or drinks to voters waiting in line.
“Considering how blatantly political the Biden lawsuit against Georgia’s commonsense election law was from the beginning, it’s no surprise they would stonewall our request for basic transparency,” Raffensperger said.
Raffensperger had filed a Freedom of Information Act request in August for communications between the Justice Department and 62 individuals and organizations, including Democrat Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight Action, the Black Voters Matter Trust Fund, the 6th District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, Latino Community Fund Georgia and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a politically active Black sorority.
Many of the groups named in Raffensperger’s request spoke out against Senate Bill 202 when it passed earlier this year.
The Justice Department acknowledged the records request but said it needed more time to respond given its scope and the need to consult with various government offices.
The federal government can take many months to produce public documents when it decides there are “unusual circumstances” surrounding the request, as it did in Raffensperger’s case.
“In an effort to speed up our process, you may wish to narrow the scope of your request to limit the number of potentially responsive records,” the Justice Department stated in a Sept. 29 letter. “We regret the necessity of this delay, but we assure you that your request will be processed as soon as possible.”
Raffensperger’s office recently settled a separate lawsuit over its responsiveness to public records requests by American Oversight, a government watchdog organization. American Oversight had alleged state election officials stalled or ignored requests for communications with the Republican National Committee, documents involving an absentee ballot fraud task force and information about coronavirus response.
Under the agreement, the secretary of state’s office was required to pay $35,000, produce readily available records within three business days, improve training and require prepayment only when retrieval costs exceed $500.