Federal Judge Declines to Block Provisions of Georgia Voter Suppression Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Oct. 11 a federal judge declined to temporarily block five provisions of Georgia’s 2021 voter suppression law, Senate Bill 202.

On May 30, several pro-voting groups and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a federal court to temporarily block five provisions of S.B. 202. The provisions that the court declined to block: 

  1. Drastically limit the availability of drop boxes in the state,
  2. Prohibit voters from distributing food and water to voters waiting in long lines, 
  3. Shorten the absentee ballot application window, 
  4. Prohibit counting timely cast provisional ballots in the wrong precinct and 
  5. Require voters applying for an absentee ballot use a driver’s license or state identification card number, or a copy of an alternative identification to confirm their identity on their absentee ballot application.

Pro-voting groups and the DOJ argued that these provisions violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Today, a court ruled that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed in proving that the provisions were passed with discriminatory intent. 

“The Court has carefully considered the factors above in considering whether Plaintiffs have shown that the Legislature intended to discriminate against black voters when it passed S.B. 202. After weighing the factors, the Court cannot find that Plaintiffs are substantially likely to succeed on their claims pursuant to the Fourteen and Fifteenth Amendments,” the opinion reads. 

Since the judge found that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on their intentional discrimination claims, the judge also found that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on their VRA claim. 

While this decision is a setback for voters, in August, the same judge temporarily blocked two of S.B. 202’s provisions after finding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their First Amendment and Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act claims. One of the now-blocked provisions required election officials to reject a voter’s absentee ballot if the birth date written on an outer ballot envelope did not match the birth date listed in a voter’s registration record. 

The other provision prohibited linewarming — when individuals hand out food and water to voters waiting in line at the polling place — within 25 feet of a voter standing in line. The linewarming ban previously applied even if the voter was further than 150 feet from a polling place and imposed criminal penalties on those who violated this rule. As a result of the order on the linewarming ban, individuals can now give food and water to voters waiting in line so long as they are further than 150 feet from a polling place.

Pro-voting groups are continuing their fight against this suppressive omnibus law. Litigation is still ongoing in a consolidated lawsuit made up of six groups’ lawsuits challenging S.B. 202. Two lawsuits that were not consolidated with these six are ongoing in federal court as well. 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.