A coalition of groups whose job it is to expand access to the ballot has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia’s chief electoral officer in response to new state voting restrictions that include barriers to postal ballots.
VoteAmerica, the Voter Participation Center and Voter Information Center on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an attempt to prevent the state from implementing new restrictions on how mail-in voting requests can be distributed across the state.
The groups claim in the lawsuit that the restrictions are unconstitutional, claiming that the distribution of ballot requests by mail is a fundamental political speech right.
Georgia’s Republican-led legislature passed SB 202 last month, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The restrictions in the law will create barriers to voting, especially for people of color, rural residents and young voters, many of whom contributed to the recent record turnout, turning Georgia blue with votes for the Democrat Joe Biden for president in November and for two Democrats in the United States. senators during the second round of January.
Republicans in favor of blocking voting accessibility, including Kemp, justified the law by saying lawmakers want to prevent voter fraud. Former President Donald Trump has spread the lie that he lost his re-election due to widespread electoral fraud, although Raffensperger was among those who refuted this claim.
“In the 2020 general election and the 2021 run-off, millions of Georgians applied for, received and voted by mail and even Secretary of State Raffensperger said both elections were conducted safely,” VoteAmerica founder Debra Cleaver said in a statement. “It is painfully clear that the real purpose of SB 202 is to suppress minority votes.”
“This ignores the voice and will of Georgian voters who have surrendered in unprecedented numbers in 2020 and 2021,” she added. “It ignores the objections of national voter protection, democracy promotion and civil rights groups. SB 202 is blatant, it perpetuates disinformation, and it blatantly targets communities of color.
Part of the changes to the new law, titled “Jim Crow 2.0” by critics, includes a provision prohibiting the secretary of state, county election officials, and other government officials from directly sending requests to vote by correspondence unless an elector expressly requests it. The law also prohibits anyone from helping a voter by pre-filling their information in a mail voting app – an important tool that many online voter support platforms use to make postal voting more accessible.
In addition, the new restrictions impose a penalty of $ 100 for each duplicate request sent to an elector who has already requested, received or deposited a postal ballot. The law “makes it virtually impossible to run mail-in ballot application programs that help Georgians vote,” said Tom Lopach, chairman of the Non-partisan Center for Electoral Participation and the Voter Information Center.
“These new requirements are not only costly and burdensome for nonprofits working to encourage political participation and facilitate access to postal voting for Georgians – in some cases they are impossible to meet. or would present financial burdens so prohibitive that some groups… might have no choice but to cease operations in Georgia altogether, ”the lawsuit says, adding that organizations whose missions focus on expanding participation of voters by distributing postal ballot requests are “an essential part of our civic society”.
According to the groups, many Georgians rely on third-party organizations to provide them with pre-filled and pre-printed postal ballot applications which they can review and submit to their county election official without the need for an internet connection. broadband or home access. a printer or scanner. This was especially the case at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when Georgian voters cast a record 132,154 mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election and a record 1,070,596 mail-in ballots in the second round of voting. 2021.
But the need to rely on such organizations still applies to rural Georgia residents, young voters, and communities of color, who often disproportionately lack the resources to secure and fulfill themselves a request for a postal vote.
“Georgia’s recent electoral experience has demonstrated overwhelming support for electoral laws that allow voters to vote safely and freely, whether they live in a small town or a large town, so that every voice is heard and that elections in the state reflect the will of the voters, ”said Paul Smith, vice president for litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, who filed the complaint on behalf of the groups.
Several civil rights groups have already filed a lawsuit in Georgia challenging a list of provisions in the law – including restrictions on requests for postal votes. Wednesday’s trial by three additional groups increases pressure on Georgia Republican officials to expand the mail-in voting access they just blocked.
“Absentee voter fraud in Georgia – the rationale for these restrictive measures – virtually non-existent,” said the March 26 lawsuit filed by the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise Inc.
According to Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, there have only been eight cases of electoral fraud in Georgia since 2000 that resulted in a plea, consent order, or conviction – a negligible rate of fraud in Georgia. the absentee vote totaling 0.00003%. “
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