Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed back quickly on Friday to the Department of Justice announcement earlier in the day that it had filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia, Secretary of State Raffensperger, and the Georgia State Election Board in federal district court alleging the intended purpose of the state’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 is to disenfranchise black voters, a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start,” Kemp said in a statement released on Friday:
Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, and their allies tried to force an unconstitutional elections power grab through Congress – and failed. Now, they are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy. As Secretary of State, I fought the Obama Justice Department twice to protect the security of our elections – and won. I look forward to going three for three to ensure it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia.
“The Biden Administration continues to do the bidding of Stacey Abrams and spreads more lies about Georgia’s election law. Their lies already cost Georgia $100 million and got the President awarded with four Pinocchios. It is no surprise that they would operationalize their lies with the full force of the federal government. I look forward to meeting them, and beating them, in court,” Raffensperger said in a separate statement.
Greg Jarret, legal analyst for Fox News, said the DOJ’s 46-page complaint is long on historical rhetoric and short on supporting empirical evidence. Consequently, they argue, the Biden administration’s chances of winning the case are a longshot.
The key premise of the DOJ lawsuit is that the intent of the Georgia law is to discriminate against black voters.
“The right of all eligible citizens to vote is the central pillar of our democracy, the right from which all other rights ultimately flow. This lawsuit is the first step of many we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote; that all lawful votes are counted; and that every voter has access to accurate information,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement released by the DOJ on Friday:
“The right to vote is one of the most central rights in our democracy and protecting the right to vote for all Americans is at the core of the Civil Rights Division’s mission,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each eligible citizen can register, cast a ballot, and have that ballot counted free from racial discrimination. Laws adopted with a racially motivated purpose, like Georgia Senate Bill 202, simply have no place in democracy today.”
“One of the fundamental rights of our democracy is the right to vote. That right should be protected for every citizen of our district, regardless of race,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia. “The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to vote.”
The complaint specifically alleged that the 98-page law passed and signed into law in March violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act:
The United States’ complaint contends that several provisions of Senate Bill 202 [The Election Integrity Act of 2021] were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race. The Justice Department’s lawsuit alleges that the cumulative and discriminatory effect of these laws—particularly on Black voters—was known to lawmakers and that lawmakers adopted the law despite this.
The United States’ complaint challenges several provisions of Senate Bill 202, including
- a provision banning government entities from distributing unsolicited absentee ballot applications;
- the imposition of costly and onerous fines on civic organizations, churches and advocacy groups that distribute follow-up absentee ballot applications;
- the shortening of the deadline to request absentee ballots to 11 days before Election Day;
- the requirement that voters who do not have identification issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Services; photocopy another form of identification in order to request an absentee ballot without allowing for use of the last four digits of a social security number for such applications;
- significant limitations on counties’ use of absentee ballot drop boxes;
- the prohibition on efforts by churches and civic groups to provide food or water to persons waiting in long lines to vote;
- and the prohibition on counting out-of-precinct provisional ballots cast before 5 p.m. on Election Day. The complaint asks the court to prohibit Georgia from enforcing these requirements.
According to the DOJ website, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act:
Most of the cases arising under Section 2 since its enactment involved challenges to at-large election schemes, but the section’s prohibition against discrimination in voting applies nationwide to any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.
Section 2 is permanent and has no expiration date as do certain other provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
In 1980, the Supreme Court held that the section, as originally enacted by Congress in 1964, was a restatement of the protections afforded by the 15th amendment. Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55 (1980). Under that standard, a plaintiff had to prove that the standard, practice, or procedure was enacted or maintained, at least in part, by an invidious purpose.
In 1982, Congress extended certain provisions of the Act such as Section 5 that were set to expire, and added protections for voters who required assistance in voting. At the same time, it examined the history of litigation under Section 2 since 1965 and concluded that Section 2 should be amended to provide that a plaintiff could establish a violation of the section if the evidence established that, in the context of the “totality of the circumstance of the local electoral process,” the standard, practice, or procedure being challenged had the result of denying a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.
The case is United States v. Georgia No. 1:21-cv-2575 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.