Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger slammed a move by the Justice Department on Friday to challenge his state’s new voting law in court, expressing confidence that the Biden administration will fail in its effort to change Georgia’s elections.
“It’s absolutely partisan,” Raffensperger told the Washington Examiner on Friday. “We’re very confident that we will prevail against this progressive wing of the Department of Justice.”
The lawsuit came just days after a Democratic voting reform bill failed in Congress. That sweeping legislation was aimed at curbing a slate of election reforms passed in several states since the 2020 election — reforms that Democrats have described as restrictive.
The Justice Department brought the lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents any voting procedure from discriminating against people of color. Justice officials argued the Georgia law, known as S.B. 202, was written specifically to prevent minorities from casting their ballots.
“The United States’ complaint contends that several provisions of Senate Bill 202 were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race,” the Justice Department said on Friday. “The Justice Department’s lawsuit alleges that the cumulative and discriminatory effect of these laws — particularly on Black voters — was known to lawmakers and that lawmakers adopted the law despite this.”
Raffensperger said he did not agree with the Justice Department’s characterization of the intent of the law nor the complaints against specific provisions within it that the agency is seeking to invalidate.
For example, Raffensperger took aim at a complaint against a new prohibition on distributing water to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots.
“There won’t be lines because lines have been outlawed by S.B. 202,” he said, citing a provision in the law that requires precincts to add more resources if the wait times at any polling location exceed one hour.
Critics of the Georgia law frequently invoked the food and water ban as a key reason for opposing the legislation. Georgia lawmakers said the provision was intended to prevent campaigns or activist groups from providing refreshments as an excuse to offer last-ditch pitches for their candidates.
“Within 150 feet, what we’re saying is, you cannot politic,” Raffensperger said. “You cannot have campaign material, and you cannot be giving people anything of value.”
The Department of Justice, however, argued in its complaint that minority communities would suffer outsize consequences if the ban remains.
“These efforts were frequently run by Black-led community organizations to provide respite to waiting voters at majority-minority polling places, which have been disproportionately plagued by long lines,” the Justice Department wrote in its complaint. “SB 202 will prevent churches, non-profit organizations, and other groups from sharing food and water to encourage voters not to abandon long lines to vote due to hunger or thirst.”
The Biden administration also seeks to strike down a limitation on ballot drop boxes, a prohibition on sending out unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots, and a new voter ID provision, among other things.
Raffensperger said the voter ID parts of the Georgia law, which imposed a new requirement that anyone applying for an absentee ballot had to provide their driver’s license or photo ID number or offer a copy of alternative ID forms such as a utility bill, were intended to move the state away from the practice of verifying absentee ballots using signature matching.
Critics of signature matching say the process can be subjective, while requiring documentation to prove someone’s identity takes more uncertainty out of the process.
Raffensperger noted the Georgia verification rules were modeled off similar rules in Minnesota.
Democrats have railed against red states’ pursuit of voting laws such as Georgia’s because, they argue, the need for such laws was created artificially by former President Donald Trump’s false claim that he won the election.
But Raffensperger argued that the need to restore faith in his state’s election system began long before Trump’s lies, saying it dated back to the 2018 gubernatorial race. In that contest, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams refused to acknowledge that now-Gov. Brian Kemp had defeated her fairly, claiming he had only won by suppressing votes.
“Stacey Abrams did not concede defeat in 2018, and that damaged the confidence in elections on their side of the aisle,” Raffensperger said. “2020 — the same thing happened on the other side of the aisle.”
Author: Sarah Westwood
Source: Washington Examiner: ‘Absolutely partisan’: Georgia secretary of state slams DOJ voting lawsuit