Georgia’s sweeping elections overhaul faces new legal challenge

Gov. Brian Kemp signs into law Senate Bill 202, an overhaul of the state's election system during a closed-door ceremony Thursday at the Georgia Capitol.
Gov. Brian Kemp signs into law Senate Bill 202, an overhaul of the state's election system during a closed-door ceremony Thursday at the Georgia Capitol.

Credit: Gov. Brian Kemp's office

Credit: Gov. Brian Kemp's office

A coalition of advocacy groups on Sunday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block Republican-backed voting restrictions signed into law last week by Gov. Brian Kemp, the second legal challenge aiming to derail the far-reaching new elections overhaul.

The complaint calls Senate Bill 202 the “culmination of a concerted effort to suppress the participation of Black voters and other voters of color” in response to Democratic victories in November and January. It asks a judge to declare the law unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

“Unable to stem the tide of these demographic changes or change the voting patterns of voters of color, these officials have resorted to attempting to suppress the vote of Black voters and other voters of color in order to maintain the tenuous hold that the Republican Party has in Georgia,” the lawsuit states.

“In other words, these officials are using racial discrimination as a means of achieving a partisan end.”

More: Fight over Georgia election rewrite now heads from Legislature to new fronts

It was filed Sunday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Common Cause and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe.

Read the lawsuit

It’s the latest challenge that targets the vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules pushed through the Republican-led Legislature, changes motivated in part by false claims about last year’s election results. Election officials have said repeatedly there’s no evidence of widespread fraud in those contests.

Hours after Kemp signed the measure into law during a closed-door ceremony in his office, three voting rights groups filed a separate lawsuit saying that Georgia’s voting limits were unjustified because they’re based on former President Donald Trump’s falsehoods.

More: New Georgia law changes voting rules — and maybe results

The new law imposes ID requirements for mail-in voters, curbs the availability of drop boxes, allows state takeovers of local elections, and restricts outside groups from distributing food and drinks to waiting voters. It also limits in-person early voting to one week before most runoff elections.

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Providing the facts and context that help readers understand the current debate over voting laws is a priority for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For a better understanding of the issues driving Legislative action, click on these links.

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Kemp and other supporters, including former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, say the measure is needed to restore confidence in a battered election system.

“We know that when Georgians don’t have confidence in the integrity of our elections, they don’t turn out to vote. We saw that in January,” said Loeffler, who lost a U.S. Senate runoff that month. “It’s not a partisan issue. It’s about making sure every Georgian knows their vote counts.”

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr said his office would “properly evaluate this law and defend the state and its citizens.”

The lawsuit filed Sunday said the “onerous and unnecessary ID requirements” for absentee voters will disproportionately harm Black and Latino voters who are less likely to have the necessary identification and hold jobs that give them flexibility to take off work during the reduced time that early voting and drop boxes are available.

“The thinly-veiled attempt to roll back the progress we have made to empower Georgians — to use their voices in the democratic process — creates an arbitrary law that does not improve voter confidence, secure election integrity nor increase access to the ballot box,” said the Rev. James Woodall, president of the state NAACP.

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