WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a federal judge found that the right-wing group True the Vote’s effort to cancel over 360,000 voter registrations ahead of the 2021 U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia did not intimidate voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Today’s decision marks the end of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Fair Fight and Georgia voters that alleged that True the Vote and its associates violated Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act by intimidating voters ahead of the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections with its mass challenge effort.
In the leadup to the 2021 runoffs, according to court filings, True the Vote launched “Validate the Vote” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. When TTV failed to overturn the results, Validate the Vote morphed into “Validate the Vote Georgia,” an operation that “offered a $1 million ‘bounty’ for reports of voter fraud…recruited Navy SEALS to confront voters and poll workers… and, with the help of individual Defendants and state Republican Party officials, launched the largest mass challenge effort in Georgia history, targeting hundreds of thousands of voters just two weeks before the January 2021 runoff election.”
True the Vote targeted the eligibility of more than 364,000 Georgians — many of whom were Black, brown or first-time voters. These actions were in part made possible due to Georgia’s lenient voter challenge laws.
Enacted in 1965, Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act outlaws any act that is likely to intimidate voters: “No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote.” The provision extends the same protections to anyone “urging or aiding” another individual to vote. Today, a federal judge ruled that True the Vote’s conduct did not violate this key provision.
Despite concerns that True the Vote’s voter challenge list “utterly lacked reliability” and “verges on recklessness,” the judge held that “there is insufficient evidence to show voter intimidation or attempted voter intimidation by Defendants against the voters in this case.”
This decision is a loss for Georgia voters, specifically the voters in this case who testified that True the Vote’s actions intimidated them. As one voter put it:
“I am a Black voter and a veteran, and I grew up in an era of segregation when it was common for public officials and certain members of our communities to make it difficult for us to vote. Having to deal with these kinds of obstacles still today is both discouraging and aggravating, and makes it seem like we should just give up.”
This case provided an opportunity for accountability for those who are stoking distrust in our elections and putting their neighbors’ registrations at risk. Unfortunately, True the Vote will not answer for the harm it caused leading up to the 2021 runoff. Nonetheless, Section 11(b) remains a vital and helpful tool in ensuring that voters are protected from election vigilantism.
While the judge found that it could not be used to hold True the Vote liable, the court did acknowledge that it is not suggesting that “challenges can never be a violation of Section 11(b). Nor is the Court wishing to imply that the manner in which Defendants made these challenges should be permissible under the Georgia law—that is a question for the Georgia General Assembly, not this Court.”