Federal Judge Upholds Georgia’s New Runoff Provisions in Voter Suppression Law 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a federal judge declined to block part of Georgia’s 2021 voter suppression law, Senate Bill 202, pertaining to runoff elections. 

After S.B. 202’s enactment, civil rights groups and nonprofits quickly sued to challenge the law’s anti-voting provisions. Last summer, several groups of plaintiffs asked the court to temporarily block S.B. 202’s new runoff provisions, arguing that the provisions discriminate against Black voters in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments.  

Specifically, the plaintiffs asked the court to temporarily block provisions that:

  • Shortened the timeline for holding runoff elections from nine to four weeks;
  • Shortened the early voting period in runoff elections from three weeks to one week, with no mandatory weekend voting and 
  • Eliminated the window for voters to register between a general election and runoff election while remaining eligible to vote in the runoff election. 

Georgia holds runoff elections when neither candidate for office obtains 50% of the vote in the primary or general election. Before S.B. 202, after the 2020 election for example, all runoffs were scheduled for nine weeks after the 2020 presidential election. Voters were allowed to register to vote after the general election and vote in the runoff held in January of 2021. After the implementation of S.B. 202, the timeline was consolidated and all runoffs must take place four weeks after the general or primary election. This is why the runoff in Georgia’s 2022 Senate election was held only four weeks after the general election. In addition to the shorter timeline, voters are no longer permitted to vote in the runoff if they registered to vote after the general election. 

Today, a Trump-appointed federal judge upheld these provisions after finding that the plaintiffs failed to “show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits as to their claims that the Runoff Provisions intentionally discriminate against black voters in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment.” S.B. 202’s harmful changes to Georgia’s runoff system will remain in place. 

While this is a loss for voters, several of S.B. 202’s provisions have been blocked. Previously, the court temporarily blocked part of the law’s linewarming ban and a provision that required election officials to reject a voter’s absentee ballot if the birth date written on an outer ballot envelope did not match the voter’s registration record. 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.

Learn more about other provisions of S.B. 202 here.