Fighting Back for Voters: Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger
Fair Fight Action is challenging Georgia’s unconstitutional elections policies and procedures in a historic federal lawsuit against the Georgia Secretary of State and Board of Elections.
ABOUT THE CASE:
The fight for voting rights and freedom from systemic voter suppression must happen on multiple fronts: advocacy, legislation, and litigation.
The United States Constitution and other federal laws guarantee the right to vote to all American citizens.
During the 2018 and subsequent elections, and building on a long-history of suppressing the right to vote, the Secretary of State and the Georgia State Election Board oversaw an elections system that we contend violated the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They created and enforced unconstitutional and otherwise unlawful policies, engaged in gross mismanagement, and failed to fulfill their statutory duty to ensure uniform application of election laws across Georgia’s 159 counties. The result of their failed policies has created election systems and procedures that have unconstitutionally burdened the fundamental right to vote and has particularly burdened the rights of people of color. Fair Fight Action has sought relief from the federal court to enforce federal protections and correct violations of federal law.
To address the violations of Georgians’ voting rights guaranteed by federal law, our lawsuit demands improvements to the Georgia elections system from top to bottom.
Our lawsuit, initially filed in November 2018, seeks to hold Georgia accountable for an elections system that violates various rights of Georgia voters under federal law, including:
Fair Fight Action is asking the Court to implement a remedy that includes:
This lawsuit, while focused on transforming the unacceptable, unlawful, and unconstitutional elections system in Georgia, is one that Fair Fight Action believes will further pave the way for free and fair elections nationwide. When our right to vote is imperiled in any state, all Americans are threatened.
The Court reviewed and ruled on summary judgment briefings regarding the merits of the case and jurisdictional arguments. Summary judgment is a pre-trial motion in which one party argues the case, or certain claims in the case, should not go to trial because there are no facts that remain to be determined by a jury or fact-finder, and based on the law, the opposing party should not prevail on the case or claims. After summary judgment, the following claims remain in the case and have been presented during the trial:
- Georgia failed to provide adequate training to counties on the correct procedures for in-person absentee ballot cancellations in violation of the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause;
- The Secretary of State’s failure to maintain accurate voter rolls violates the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments; and
- Georgia’s Exact Match Policy violates the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, the Fifteenth Amendment’s ban on racial discrimination, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
In a November 2021 Order, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs may present post-2018 evidence during trial. As a result of the Court’s Order, over 150 declarants who provided their voter stories from 2018 through the January 2021 runoff elections have been able to share their experiences by providing deposition testimony supporting the litigation. In total, Plaintiffs filed more than 300 declarations in the litigation. The stories of these voters, would-be voters, poll watchers, and community leaders are now part of an official court record that demonstrates how Georgia’s failures to protect voting rights have affected the lives of the State’s citizens.
The Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger trial began on April 11, 2022, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The bench trial, a trial before a judge and not a jury, is the first voting rights case to reach a full trial on the merits in this Court for more than a decade. During Plaintiffs’ case, 49 witnesses testified, including representatives from the Plaintiff churches and organizations, two dozen voters, would-be voters, and poll watchers, personnel from the Secretary of State’s Office, State Election Board members, legal experts, and other government officials. One month into trial, Defendants filed a motion asking the Court to cut the case short, ending the trial at the end of Plaintiffs’ case. But the Court declined to grant Defendants’ motion and ordered that the trial would proceed with the Defendants having to begin their presentation of evidence. The Defendants started their case on June 13, 2022, two months after the start of trial.
The Court has allowed the public to observe proceedings in the courtroom and in an overflow room where audio from the proceedings will be played. The trial is proceeding at the Richard B. Russell Federal Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia in courtroom 1907.
FOLLOW THE CASE
To illustrate our claims and shine a spotlight on the obstacles within the elections system of Georgia, Fair Fight Action has gathered statements from hundreds of Georgia voters in every region of our state.
If you are a Georgia voter who is interested in sharing the story of the issues you experienced while voting, or attempting to vote, in the 2018 election cycle or any subsequent election, including the 2020 primary election, the 2020 General Election, and the 2021 senate run-off election, please share your story.
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