DOJ Steps Into Lawsuit Challenging Georgia’s Absentee Ballot Application Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice is getting involved in a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s deadline for absentee ballot applications under the Voting Rights Act (VRA). 

Yesterday, the DOJ submitted a statement of interest in a lawsuit challenging the state’s absentee ballot application deadline for presidential elections. 

The lawsuit — filed by a chapter of the International Alliance of Theater Stage Employees (IATSE), the largest union representing workers in the entertainment industry — argues that Georgia’s deadline for absentee ballot applications violates Section 202(d) of the Voting Rights Act, which mandates that voters must be able to cast absentee ballots in presidential elections if they applied seven days before the election. 

In Georgia, under the omnibus voter suppression law enacted in 2021, a voter must apply for an absentee ballot even earlier than the seven-day deadline mandated by the VRA; the latest a voter may apply for an absentee ballot is eleven days before the election. The plaintiffs argue that this violates the Voting Rights Act.

Georgia’s Republican Attorney General Christopher Carr is defending the deadline and argues that the plaintiffs do not have a right to sue under the Voting Rights Act, and that only the U.S. attorney general has that power. Carr is the latest Republican attorney general to attack private right of action under the Voting Rights Act. Over the last several months, Republican attorneys general have ramped up their efforts to relentlessly threaten the ability of individuals and civil rights groups to bring lawsuits under the VRA in an attempt to weaken the landmark law. 

Now, the DOJ has stepped in to defend the Voting Rights Act and argue that the DOJ is not the only entity that can sue to enforce the law. In its brief, the Justice Department writes that “Section 202’s provisions are privately enforceable” and requests that the court “reject Defendants’ bare-bones assertion that the existence of a public remedy in Section 202 forecloses a private remedy.” 

Read the brief here.

Learn more about the case here.