Plaintiffs Argue that 2021 Law is a Culmination of Concerted Efforts to Limit the Participation of Black Voters and Other Voters of Color
ATLANTA – Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, issued a preliminary injunction that stopped Georgia counties from enforcing the requirement in Georgia’s SB202 that stipulates that absentee ballots not be counted if a voter makes an error in filling in their birthdate. The Court held that the birthdate requirement violated the “Materiality Provision” of the Civil Rights Act—which was enacted to “counteract state and local government tactics of using, among other things, burdensome registration requirements to disenfranchise African-Americans.”
In the 2024 elections, this injunction is likely to count thousands of votes that would have otherwise been discarded. Documents obtained and provided to the Court by the plaintiffs reveal that in Gwinnett County, during the 2022 Senate runoff alone, 218 votes were rejected due to birthdate errors, constituting 74% of the total absentee ballots rejected.
“This injunction begins to reign in SB202’s numerous and egregious restrictions on counting every vote,” said Laurence Pulgram from the law firm of Fenwick & West, lead counsel for the Plaintiffs on this motion. “The Court’s ruling vindicates the principle that disenfranchising voters due to immaterial errors in paperwork violates federal law and can’t be tolerated.”
“The trial court’s decision today is important not only for its practical effect–to stop Georgia counties from preventing people from voting simply because they don’t put their birth date on an absentee ballot–but also because of the judge’s reasoning,” said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project. “The law we were enforcing had been passed to stop states and counties from using unnecessary and burdensome requirements to disenfranchise Black voters in particular. Such tactics had no place in our electoral system during the Jim Crow era, and have no place in it today.”
In 2021, the Plaintiff groups initiated a lawsuit to block voter restrictions included in SB202, legislation signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. The lawsuit specifically names as defendants Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Rebecca Sullivan, David Worley, Matthew Mashburn, and Anh Le, in their official capacities as members of the Georgia State Election Board. It also cites several Georgia counties boards of elections, including several of the most populous in the state. The court’s injunction was issued against the counties’ enforcing the birthdate requirement.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and co-counsel Bryan Sells, Gerald Webber, Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP, and Fenwick & West are pursuing the federal lawsuit on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Common Cause, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Inc., the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, Inc., League of Women Voters of Georgia, and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.