Lawsuit challenging Georgia’s new election law can proceed after ruling from federal judge

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of several plaintiffs against Georgia’s new election law was given a green light by a federal judge Thursday.

“What the court said was that it would allow our case to proceed to be able to let our plaintiffs have their day in court and to present our evidence about why SB 202 creates and erects barriers to voting,” said Poy Winichakul who is an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We believe that as the litigation process goes on it will become even more clear how SB 202 erects barriers and is based on misinformation that was spread throughout the 2020 election,” she said.

While this is just one many steps in actually getting a lawsuit like this to trial, Winichakul says the plaintiffs including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project and Women Watch Afrika remain committed to challenging the law. The legal action claims the new law violates the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act.

“It rolls back voting for absentee voting, early voting especially during runoff elections and in person voting,” said Winichakul.

She says those are major avenues for many voters of color to cast a ballot. The lawsuit says in 2020, up to 30% of black voters cast their votes by mail as compared to 24 % of white voters.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has been a staunch defender of the law. He told us in June that it creates uniformity, especially in terms of identification requirements for absentee ballots.

“It gives people that aren’t voting absentee or if they are voting absentee they know that everyone had a driver’s license number or some secure way of being identified and that will help restore confidence,” said Raffensperger.

Winichakul disagrees. “The other side might say that SB 202 just fixes routine matters but those routine matters are the entryway to getting a ballot and being able to cast a ballot and have it counted so why isn’t that incorporated in the right to vote? I believe that it is and that is why SB-202 is significant in the way that it rolls back voting rights,” she said.

In answering lawsuit plaintiffs, the state of Georgia argued that “the challenged provisions of SB 202 “impose nothing beyond the usual burdens of voting.”

Winichakul says for some voters, the burden has traditionally gone beyond the usual and SB 202 will make it worse.

“We are representing groups of voters from all across racial and ethnic lines, populations of different faiths because they all stand to be disenfranchised and negatively impacted by this law,” she said.

The legal back and forth will continue for months at least. There are currently more than a half a dozen lawsuits challenging the new election law.

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