Complaint accuses Georgia officials of voter rights restrictions

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FILE – Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Marietta, Georgia. Who can vote and which ballots will be counted has become as much of a story this election year as the intense and turbulent race for president. Concerns about Election Day chaos at polling places may be tempered by the record-setting early vote in most of the country, as voters sought ways to safely cast their ballot amid a global pandemic. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project and Rise Inc. have filed a complaint against several Georgia officials for what they call voter rights restrictions.

Governor Brian Kemp signed into law Thursday Senate Bill 202. The measure restricts the location of drop boxes, limits the time to request absentee ballots, requires a photo I-D for absentee voting and makes it a crime to give out food or water while voters stand in line. Republicans said the sweeping changes are needed to restore voter confidence in the election process. 

“With Senate bill 202, Georgia will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair,” said Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Thursday evening.

Filed Thursday in United States District Court Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division, the complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive relief against  Secretary of  State Brad Raffensperger, Vice Chair of the Georgia State Election Board Rebecca Sullivan, and other election officials seeks to stop the enforcement of the challenged  provisions of Senate Bill 202. The complaint alleges the bill violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as undue burdens on the right to vote.

The complaint accuses Republican lawmakers of  introducing the legislation only after Black-preferred candidates prevailed in the presidential and U.S. Senate races for the first time in decades and that despite numerous audits and recounts there was no evidence found of  voter fraud or insecurity.  Secretary Raffensperger declared in a nationally televised interview that Georgia “had safe, secure, honest elections.”  

The complaint also alleges that Republican leaders in response to Black voter mobilization, sought to prevent “these results from repeating in future elections.” In the filing,  Alice O’Lenick, Chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections, is quoted as explaining to her fellow Republicans, 2020 was a “terrible elections cycle” for the Republican Party. She said, “I’m like a dog with a bone. I will not let them end this session without changing some of these laws. They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts so that we at least have a shot at winning.”   

Georgia voters turned out in record-shattering numbers. In the 2020 general election, nearly 5 million Georgians voted, compared to 4.16 million in the 2016 general election. In the January 2021 runoff elections for both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, nearly 4.5 million voters cast ballots. The sky high turnout in the runoff election bucked past trends, when voter participation typically dropped from the general election. 

 The link to the filing is here.

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