After Georgia voters turned out in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election and U.S. Senate elections in early 2021, state legislators passed a sweeping – and unconstitutional – voting law that threatened to massively disenfranchise voters, particularly voters of color. The SPLC and its allies filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia and Gov. Brian Kemp.
The lawsuit challenges multiple provisions of the law, also known as SB 202, including the following items.
- A ban on “line warming,” where volunteers provide water and snacks to people waiting in long lines to vote, a common occurrence at precincts with a large population of voters of color.
- A severe restriction on the use of mobile voting units, which have been used to address a shortage of accessible and secure polling locations that previously resulted in long lines of voters at existing and traditional polling locations.
- Additional and onerous identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot.
- A compressed period for requesting absentee ballots.
- Restrictions on the use of secure ballot drop boxes.
- Disqualification of provisional ballots cast in a voter’s county of residence but outside the voter’s precinct before 5 p.m. Previously, votes for all the races to which the person was eligible to vote on that precinct’s provisional ballot were counted.
- A drastic reduction of early voting in runoff elections.
The law was debated and passed by both houses of the Georgia Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, all in under seven hours. The legislation was passed despite state officials praising the recent elections for their integrity, safety and security.
The lawsuit describes how the law violates voter protections under the 14th and 15th Amendments as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. It also outlines how the “line warming” ban violates the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
The plaintiffs represented in the case include organizations whose get-out-the-vote activities will be negatively impacted by SB 202 and people most directly affected, such as Black voters, new citizens, religious communities and people with limited English proficiency. The plaintiffs include: the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, The Arc of the United States, Georgia ADAPT, Georgia Advocacy Office and Southern Christian Leadership Conference.