ATLANTA - Just hours after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a massive election reform bill into law, attorneys for three voter advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop it.
In a closed-door ceremony, Gov. Kemp added his signature to the "Election Integrity Act of 2021" Thursday evening.
"With Senate Bill 202, Georgia will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair," Gov. Kemp said in a live-streamed press conference.
In the lawsuit, The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise, Inc. argued the "voter suppression bill" violates both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and said the changes "make absentee, early, and election-day voting more difficult—especially for minority voters."
SB 202 requires voter ID for absentee by mail ballot requests, limits the number and hours of drop boxes and makes it illegal for anyone to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote.
"We bring lawn chairs for our elders so that they can sit while they are waiting to vote," said Nse Ufot, executive director of The New Georgia Project. "So, the idea that that will be now subject to criminal penalties, it's absurd and that's why we're suing."
The suit names Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and members of the State Election Board.
Raffensperger issued a statement to FOX 5 in response to the lawsuit:
"Everyone knows that I will call out disinformation from either party when I see it, and the Democrats’ latest lawsuit is a continuation of their disinformation campaign that attempts to mislead voters about election administration in Georgia. Our office doesn’t agree with everything in SB 202, but the hyperbolic claim Democrats are making are false and dangerous.
Moving to an objective way of verifying absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications that incorporates photo ID without increasing burdens on voters is common sense and has broad bipartisan support. Increasing in-person early voting is a good thing. Putting in place reasonable deadlines for absentee ballot applications is just common sense, as is clarifying rules on unwanted and unrequested mailers that confuse voters and clog the system. Giving county election officials needed flexibility and allowing them to process absentee ballots sooner will allow for faster results and increased transparency. Keeping the space directly outside of polling places free from partisan campaigning is common sense and makes sure that a voter’s vote remains free and secure. Monitoring line length and reducing out of precinct voting will make the in-person voting experience better for everyone.
The Democrats’ lawsuit pushes a preferred political narrative, but doesn’t accurately reflect what’s in the bill. As we have seen when either party brings politically-motivated lawsuits, we’ll continue to defend Georgia law and I expect we’ll continue to win."
Ufot said Georgia is only one of the states where lawmakers are considering changing voting laws after the 2020 election.
"Ultimately I believe that federal intervention through HR 1 and HR 4 are the most efficient ways to address what's happening," said Ufot. "While we are feeling it very acutely in Georgia, anti-voting bills are currently being deliberated in 42 other states right now. So, Georgia's one of 43 states and 43 lawsuits is a really inefficient way to protect our democracy."
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