New Lawsuit Claims GA Elections Bill Intentionally Discriminates Against Black Voters

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's up... ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's upcoming elections including restricting ballot drop boxes, requiring an ID requirement for absentee voting and limiting weekend early voting days. The Georgia House passed the bill and will send it to the Senate. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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March 29, 2021 11:09 a.m.

A new lawsuit claims that race “was a motivating factor” behind last week’s passage of the Georgia elections overhaul law known as SB 202.

“SB 202 was enacted at a time when Black voters and other voters of color were making increasing use of means of voting that are being limited and restricted in SB 2020,” the lawsuit, filed Sunday by several voting rights and civil rights groups, said. “SB 202 was enacted immediately following elections in which the size of the population of Black voters and other voters of color, particularly when compared to the diminishing share of the white vote, had become larger in statewide elections.”

The lawsuit is at least the second legal challenge the new law faces. This latest litigation was brought by the NAACP of Georgia, the state’s League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe and the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund Inc.

They alleged that the Georgia law violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act in how it allegedly targets minority voters. The groups also said the Constitution’s freedom of speech protections have been violated by the Georgia law as well.

The controversial Georgia law will make mail voting more cumbersome for some voters by adding new ID requirements to the process and limiting drop box use. It will also decrease the amount of in-person early voting offered in some places and bars third parties from distributing food and beverages to voters in line, a practice known “line-warming.” In some parts of Georgia, however, the bill will expand ballot access by increasing the minimum amount of in-person early voting counties must offer, including with a requirement two Saturdays.

Additionally, the law will grease the wheels for the state election board to take over local election entities, while also reconfiguring the state elections board to give the GOP legislature more influence over it.

Those provisions, along with several others, were passed with the intent to discriminate against voters of color, the new lawsuit said.

The complaint pointed to how the Georgia legislature deviated from its normal procedures to advance the legislation and accused the lawmakers of using  “tenuous” and “pretextual” rationales to justify the restrictions.  The lawsuit also cited comments made by Georgia Rep. Barry Fleming (R), who spearheaded the effort, in which he said, “If elections were like coastal cities, absentee balloting would be the shady part of town down near the docks you do not want to wander into.”

The lawsuit additionally challenges the new penalties for third party groups that inadvertently send mail ballot applications to voters who have already requested to vote by mail. That provision, the lawsuit alleged, violates the freedom of speech protections in the Constitution.

Read the complaint below:

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