December 9, 2021

Judge rejects motions to dismiss lawsuits challenging Georgia voting law

By Stanley Dunlap | Georgia Reorder | December 9, 2021

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U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee ruled that he needs to hear more facts in eight lawsuits challenging Georgia’s voting law. The judge on Thursday rejected the state’s motions to dismiss the claims. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder (file photo)

Eight federal lawsuits challenging Georgia’s voting law remain alive after a judge rejected motions to dismiss them Thursday.

Civil rights organizations applauded U.S. District Court Judge J.P. Boulee’s decision to move ahead with the complaints that argue new absentee ballot ID requirements, provisional ballot restrictions, absentee drop box limitations and other provisions are forms of voter suppression targeting Black people and other marginalized groups.

The lawsuits were filed after the spring passage of Senate Bill 202, a sweeping overhaul of Georgia’s election law that Republican officials have defended against accusations of discrimination and that it was a rushed response to the GOP suffering high-profile losses in the presidential and U.S. Senate elections.

The majority of those suits filed in the Atlanta-based district court argue that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or language.

Boulee, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump, dismissed the state’s request to toss out the lawsuits based on arguments from the defendants that plaintiffs have not suffered harm or have any right to sue, with the judge saying he needs to hear the facts of each case before making any rulings.

One of the eight lawsuits that moves forward is led by the ACLU of Georgia, the Georgia NAACP, and Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and other groups.

“The court rejected every single one of the defendants’ arguments to dismiss our lawsuit,” said Rahul Garabadu, voting rights staff attorney for the ACLU of Georgia. “Georgia’s anti-voter law makes it harder to vote for Georgia’s citizens of color and citizens with disabilities, and we look forward to continue to fight this law in court.”

Legal experts have predicted that the majority of these election lawsuits face a tough road after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year placed a significantly higher burden on proving discrimination under Section 2 of the VRA.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have said they are confident the state will prevail against the claims highlighted by a U.S. Department of Justice suit over voting rights.

GOP backers say the law makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat through changes requiring ID, restricting the number of absentee drop boxes and making them available during early voting hours, and mandating that every county provide Sunday voting.

Boulee wrote in a filing on the New Georgia Project v. Raffensperger case on Thursday that he needs more information from both parties about a provision that prohibits distributing food and beverages to voters standing in lines at polling places.

Boulee said that the state has not provided “support for their contention that such activities can be restricted simply because they occur near a polling place.”

“At the motion to dismiss stage, the court does not have the benefit of sufficient facts to properly assess the specific context of plaintiffs’ allegations,” Boulee said.