Federal judge rules Georgia’s voting laws can remain intact ahead of 2024 elections

Plaintiffs argued rules surrounding absentee voting, line warming were unconstitutional
“I think their case was very flimsy and obviously, they lost.”
Published: Oct. 12, 2023 at 7:41 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The federal Justice Department and several voting rights groups were dealt a blow this week with a federal ruling that was simultaneously applauded by state election officials.

The Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Defense Fund and others had sued the state over the Election Integrity Act, which spelled out some sweeping changes to Georgia’s voting laws when it was passed in 2021.

Among them is a required ID when applying for an absentee ballot and less time to do so. There would also be fewer places to drop off the ballots at secure drop boxes and a prohibition on the practice of line warming or providing food and water to voters waiting in long polling lines.

“We picked these provisions based on how they targeted Black voters in particular,” said Alaizah Koorji, an attorney with the Legal Defense Fund. “We have enough evidence that this bill was designed to dilute Black voter participation and the participation of other minority voters.”

Georgia’s Black voter base exploded during the 2020 election and subsequent 2021 runoff vote. The Justice Department and other plaintiffs, like the Legal Defense Fund, were hoping a federal judge would put a temporary ban on certain provisions in the bill ahead of the 2024 election.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t work, but the case is not over. The litigation is not over,” said Koorji. “We hope to have an opportunity to present our case fully.”

On Thursday, speaking to Atlanta News First at a Kiwanis Club event in Marietta, Raffensperger applauded the ruling and touted Georgia as the “leader in election integrity” and accessibility.

“I think their case was very flimsy and obviously, they lost,” he said. “If you look at photo ID we now have for absentee voting, we modeled that after Minnesota that’s been using that for over 10 years. And yet they sued us on that.”

Raffensperger also claimed there were instances of “politicking” within the allowed 150-foot limit of precinct lines during 2020. Which led lawmakers to add the provision banning line warming.

“There was actually campaigning going on,” he said. “What people were doing was entering that zone of 150 feet and then approaching people, giving them a bottle of water, but also one final plug for their candidate.”

Raffensperger also said after instances of hours-long lines at Georgia precincts in 2020, wait times dropped significantly — as little as three minutes in some places.

But plaintiffs in the case will still make a push to have the law challenged ahead of the next presidential contest, with the aim of improving access to absentee voting which is the primary method for casting ballots among voters of color. Their argument: SB202 violates the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act.

“You see that there’s are a certain category of voters who are voting by drop boxes, voting by absentee, voting by mail, voting in certain precincts,” said Koorji. “And the way that there was surgical precision in targeting those methods, it’s quite clear to us at least from the plaintiff’s side, that this had an impact and will continue to have an impact on Black voters.”