Saturday, December 10, 2022

Electoral lawsuit backed by Stacey Abrams goes to trial in Georgia

ATLANTA ( Associated Press) — When she finished her first bid to become Georgia’s governor in 2018, Stacey Abrams announced plans to sue over the way she managed the state’s elections. More than three years later, as she makes another run at the governor’s mansion, the trial is underway.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2018 by Abrams’ Fair Fight Action organization, alleged that state officials “deprived the election of the right to vote to certain citizens, particularly low-income people and people of color”. Extremely mismanaged”. The lawsuit originally called for a sweeping overhaul of state elections, but its scope was significantly narrowed after changes made by the state, which addressed some of the allegations and others were dismissed by the court. The trial is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Even if US District Judge Steve Jones favors the plaintiffs, it is unclear whether this will affect elections this year. Jones and other federal judges have been reluctant to order last-minute changes, noting that the Supreme Court has repeatedly said that federal judges should not change rules “on the eve of elections.”

Read more: Stacey Abrams Launches Second Campaign for Georgia Governor

In the months before the 2018 election, Abrams, a Democrat, accused then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp of using his position as Georgia’s chief electoral officer to fuel voter suppression on his Republican rival in the running for governor. Alleged, an allegation Kemp has vehemently denied. ,

In the more than three years since that fierce fighting garnered national attention, the focus on Georgia’s elections has only intensified. The problems drew sharp criticism during the 2020 primary. Later that year, former President Donald Trump insulted state officials who refused to reverse his narrow general election defeat in the state. And the nation watched closely in January 2021 as a pair of Democrats ousted the state’s two incumbent Republican US senators.

Several GOP-led state legislatures passed election bills last year after Trump fueled false claims that widespread fraud caused his 2020 defeat. Georgia’s bill, which Kemp signed into law a year earlier, was one of the most comprehensive. Among other things, the state measure narrowed the window for requesting an absentee ballot, took power away from the secretary of state, and increasingly curbed the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in populous and Democratic-voting metro Atlanta counties. Put it. Voting rights groups and the US Department of Justice immediately sued; Those cases are pending.

Republicans in Georgia this year passed legislation requiring the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to launch an investigation into alleged election manipulation.

Meanwhile, Abrams, a state legislator who was little known outside Georgia four years ago, has become a household name and Democratic Party star. The only Democrat to run for governor, she will face Kemp again in November if she faces a primary challenger from former US Sen. David Perdue.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accused Abrams and his allies of trying to undermine the integrity of the Georgia elections.

“Her 3-year ‘stolen election’ campaign is nothing more than a political stunt to keep her in the national spotlight, and it is a disservice to Georgia voters,” he said in an emailed statement.

Fair Fight says it works to promote voting rights and support progressive candidates nationwide, and its PAC has raised more than $100 million since its inception. It filed suit with Care in Action, a nonprofit that advocates for domestic workers. Several churches have also joined as plaintiffs.

Fair Fight collected statements from people who said they had problems voting. The lawsuit cited a number of perceived problems, including purging eligible voters from electoral rolls under a “use it or lose it” policy; the state’s so-called exact match voter registration rules; Inadequate number of voting machines in some areas; and lack of adequate training for election officials. It asked a federal judge to find that Georgia’s election procedures violated the US Constitution and federal law.

“Since the start of this trial, we have shed light on real voters and their challenges as we believe one of the most effective ways to demonstrate barriers to Georgia’s election system,” said Fair Fight executive director Cianti Stewart. -Reid said in an emailed statement. Voters across the state will testify about the obstacles they face trying to vote in the trial, he said.

Some perceived problems were addressed by changes to state law. For example, a 2019 law called for replacing the state’s outdated voting machines. The new system was implemented across the state in 2020.

In February 2021, Jones dismissed parts of the lawsuit, saying that some of the charges were made irrelevant by changes in state law or the plaintiff’s lack of standing. Among these were some claims about voting machines and election technology, as well as security of voter lists and polling place issues. The following month, Jones dismissed claims targeting a “use it or lose it” policy and some allegations of inadequate training of election workers. He also rejected some claims regarding provisional and absentee ballots.

The remaining issues up for trial relate to an “exact match” policy, statewide voter registration lists and in-person cancellation of absentee ballots. The plaintiffs claim that Georgia’s secretary of state and state election board members are “denying and curtailing the right of Georgians to vote” in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the US Constitution.

Read more: Under pressure, some Georgia corporate leaders slam the voting bill

Under an “exact match” policy, information on voter registration applications is checked against information held by the state’s Department of Driver Services or the Federal Social Security Administration. If there is a discrepancy, a potential voter will need to show their identity to county officials before they are able to vote regularly.

Plaintiffs contend that data entry errors or differences in the form of a missing hyphen or apostrophe could trigger a non-match and that even naturalized citizens could be incorrectly marked as non-citizens. Maybe if the records are out of date. Plaintiffs say these problems disproportionately affect people of color and can depend on where a person lives because counties operate differently.

The plaintiffs say that the statewide voter registration database is “flawed,” resulting in the misrepresentation of eligible voters’ registrations or that important information is incorrect. Plaintiffs contend that this could deter eligible voters from voting or force them to relieve undue burdens of doing so.

The plaintiffs also state that election officials are not adequately trained to cancel absentee ballots if a person chooses to vote in person, thereby turning away voters or allowing voters to cast a provisional ballot. can be forced.

State attorneys argue that the claims in the lawsuit are “not supported by evidence.” State attorneys wrote in a filing that the number, geographic scope and severity of alleged problems experienced by voters identified by the plaintiffs “do not rise to a sufficient level to demonstrate an unconstitutional burden on voting in Georgia.” Additionally, they argue, the alleged problems are not the responsibility of the state officials named in the lawsuit.

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