ATLANTA—Late last night, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, along with the Georgia NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Georgia Latino Community Development Fund, Common Cause, and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia to prevent enforcement of SB 202, an omnibus voter suppression bill signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp last week. Plaintiffs argue the bill targets the voting rights of Georgians of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
“The League of Women Voters has fought SB 202 ever since it was introduced, and we’re continuing to fight it now,” said Susannah Scott, president of the League of Women Voters of Georgia. “This bill deliberately targets Black, Latinx, Asian American, indigenous, and other voters of color in a direct attempt to eliminate the voting rights gains of 2020. It’s a despicable attempt by legislators to choose who can vote in our state and who cannot. It’s undemocratic, unconstitutional, and un-American.”
SB 202 makes cuts to several important mechanisms increasingly used by voters of color, including early voting, absentee ballots, and ballot drop boxes, in addition to adding new and unnecessary ID requirements for absentee ballots. The bill also threatens groups like the League of Women Voters and its partners with fines for assisting voters with their absentee ballots.
“This voter suppression bill in Georgia is an assault on democracy,” said Virginia Kase, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “The tremendous voter participation of the 2020 election was the culmination of decades of work by grassroots organizers and voting rights advocates. Our states should build on the success of 2020’s historic voter turnout, but instead we are seeing a return to the era of Jim Crow laws. The people of Georgia deserve better. The American voters deserve better.”
The 2020 election saw the greatest voter participation in history, with Georgia seeing an increase in both registration numbers and voter participation—especially among Black and other communities of color. The provisions in SB 202 would not only eliminate Georgia’s growth in voter participation, but it would take voting rights backward in the state, particularly for voters of color who are undeniably targeted by the bill. For instance, SB 202 allows country registrars to eliminate Sunday early voting hours, used by many Black and Brown churches and faith groups to deliver community members to the polls.
“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 Rev. James Woodall, state president of the Georgia NAACP.
“It is unfortunate that Georgians were lied to because some did not like the results of the 2020 elections,” said Helen Butler, executive director, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. “However, passing legislation that gives the majority party too much control over our elections while also creating barriers to voters in a rushed and non-transparent process is not the solution to those lies. Our focus is protecting Georgian’s right to vote. And that is why we have taken this necessary step.”
“The intent of this new law was to discriminate against minority and poor voters in Georgia,” said Jerry Gonzalez, chief executive officer of GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Inc. “Our communities will stand together to work against these Jim Crow tactics pushing to take our state backwards.”
“This bill was rammed through the process without public participation or a fiscal analysis,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “It’s easy to see the reason why—this bill makes it harder for Black and Brown communities on the margins to vote, and it allows a legislatively-controlled state board to takeover county elections offices and potentially interfere with election certification. This has nothing to do with the ‘public interest’—it’s a partisan effort to maintain power during the 2022 elections.”
Plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee on for Civil Rights Under Law and Hughes Hubbard & Reed.
“Georgia state lawmakers are making it more difficult to vote, criminalizing ordinary voter assistance, and then lying to their own constituents to suggest it is for their own good,” said Damon Hewitt, acting president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “By limiting access to absentee ballots and early voting, they are targeting our Black and Brown communities. Discriminatory voter suppression is alive and well and it cannot stand.”
“The right to vote is central to our democracy,” said Vilia Hayes, senior pro bono counsel at Hughes Hubbard & Reed. “Democracy works best when all citizens can vote and we are proud to be an active participant in voter protection.”
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