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Case marks the longest-running federal voting rights trial in the Eleventh Circuit on record, as Plaintiffs presented testimony from 50 witnesses—and the State presented only six
ATLANTA — Today, the parties delivered closing arguments in the landmark federal lawsuit Fair Fight Action, Inc. v. Raffensperger, drawing trial—which began over two months ago—to a close. Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia has previously stated the Court will rule on the case ahead of the November General Election.
Fair Fight Action, Inc. v. Raffensperger began trial on April 11, 2022, more than three years after the lawsuit was filed. The case marks the longest-running federal voting rights trial heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on record.
Over the last two and a half months, Plaintiffs presented testimony from 50 witnesses, including voters and would-be voters, representatives from the co-plaintiff organization and churches, legal experts, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, and other current and former state elections officials. Through the testimony and substantial documentary evidence presented, Plaintiffs demonstrated that Georgia voters are burdened at every state of the voting process as a result of the policies and practices of the Georgia Secretary of State and Georgia State Elections Board.
In her closing remarks, Lead Counsel for the Plaintiffs Allegra Lawrence-Hardy argued that the burdens faced by Georgia voters result from deliberate choices by the Secretary of State and State Elections Board. She described the reality of the landscape Defendants created that makes it harder to register, harder to stay registered, and ultimately, harder to vote. Plaintiffs recalled that there have been moments in our history when the federal courts have been required to step in to protect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and argued this case represents one of those moments.
“This suit put real voters at the center of conversation about voting rights in Georgia by amplifying the voices of Georgians across the state who have been burdened by the state’s election practices,” said Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, Lead Counsel for the Plaintiffs. “Through this trial, we are proud to have memorialized firsthand accounts of the experiences of Georgia voters, alongside data and historical context provided by a slate of leading voting rights experts. We have exposed previously unknown tactics implemented by the Secretary of State and State Elections Board which have the predictable effect of disenfranchising eligible voters. We are confident in the case presented, and believe we have built a record that supports action by the federal courts on behalf of Georgia voters.”
During trial, Plaintiffs presented evidence to support their claims that the Secretary of State and State Elections Board have engaged, and continue to engage, in practices that infringe upon various rights guaranteed under federal law. This includes the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, freedom from racial discrimination in voting in the Fifteenth Amendment, the promise of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the protection from racially discriminatory voting practices afforded by Section Two of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The breadth of the constitutional and statutory challenges to the State’s election practices, the overwhelming weight of the evidence presented, and the historic length of the trial, reflect the gravity of the problems Georgians face when trying to become registered to vote, cast a ballot, and have their ballot counted.
“From the beginning, this lawsuit has been an opportunity to achieve real change on behalf of voters and would-be voters from across the state of Georgia who face obstacles trying to exercise their right to vote,” said Fair Fight Action Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid. “Georgia, like many Southern states, has a long history of suppressing the right to vote among people of color and marginalized communities. Through this case we have demonstrated that this suppression is not part of some sad and distant past, but rather continues to happen today. Our message to Georgia voters is clear: Fair Fight Action and our allies will not stand by. We will continue to fight to protect Georgians’ freedom to vote on every front.”
The Plaintiffs overcame the Defendants’ efforts to avoid a trial at every turn. Defendants unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the case in its entirety at the outset, they attempted to avoid meaningful discovery, and they even asked the Court to cut the trial short before presenting their own case – a motion the Court declined to rule on.
Fair Fight Action is seeking relief from the federal court on behalf of all Georgians and fighting to hold the Georgia State Election Board and the Secretary of State accountable for an elections system that violates Georgians’ voting rights guaranteed by federal law. The lawsuit seeks remedies to improve the Georgia elections system at each stage of the voting process: registration, casting a ballot, and having that ballot counted.
ATLANTA — This week, Fair Fight Action held a press conference to provide updates on the landmark federal lawsuit Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger as the trial heads into its final days.
The press conference featured voters and would-be voters, community leaders, and members of the Plaintiffs’ trial team. Voters shared their stories of overcoming–or getting caught up in–obstacles to the ballot box. These Georgians help comprise the 49 witnesses–including more than two dozen voters and would-be voters–called by Plaintiffs to highlight the human impact of the systemic inequities in the state’s electoral system. The Defense has begun presenting evidence and are expected to close their case on Friday. Closing arguments are scheduled for next Thursday, June 23.
Throughout this trial, Fair Fight Action and its co-plaintiffs argued that the Secretary of State and State Election Board engaged, and continue to engage, in practices that infringe upon various rights guaranteed under federal law, including the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, freedom from racial discrimination in voting in the Fifteenth Amendment, the promise of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the protection from racially discriminatory voting practices afforded by Section Two of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Excerpted press conference remarks from select participants can be found below:
“…As an active member of Atlanta’s Asian-American Pacific Islander community, and as a native Vietnamese speaker, I know the difficulties that many Asian voters face when trying to vote because of the spacing and sequencing of their names. […] That is why Georgia’s Exact Match Policy creates significant obstacles for Vietnamese Americans and Asian American voters in the state of Georgia.” – Georgia voter and volunteer Cam Ashling
“It is frustrating to see members of the AAPI community encounter so many obstacles when exercising their fundamental right to vote and to be disenfranchised simply because their names do not always conform to convention used in the United States.” – Cam Ashling
“After multiple attempts to call the DeKalb County Registrar’s Office for assistance, they decided the appropriate course of action was to have me vote by provisional ballot. Upon returning it to the poll manager who had been working with me, he said that he was not sure whether it would count or not. As I think anyone in my shoes would, I left that experience feeling disheartened and unsure as to whether my vote was going to count.” – Georgia voter Aaron Karp
“In the face of these and other obstacles, Virginia Highland Church has expanded our efforts and our voting rights ministry. And we will continue to do our part in the fight to ensure that every eligible Georgia citizen is able to register and cast their vote to express their God-given voice.” – Virginia-Highland Church Senior Pastor Rev. Matt Laney
“The challenge is we must continue to fight the fight, which we have waged here in this courthouse and across the state of Georgia, because the problems with voting, the problems with obstacles, the problem of difficulty in voting is far too common for us to view it as something that seldom happens. Through this court case, we have discovered it is not something that seldom happens, but far too often happens. So we must press the fight to see these obstacles are torn down–that voting is made easier, and those who are eligible, who have the right to vote, are able to cast their ballot, have their voice heard, and exercise power.” – Bishop Reginald Jackson, Presiding Prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
“Instead of responding to these myriad needs, Secretary Raffensperger has spent this election cycle patting himself on the back for the tireless work of local elections administrators and organizers across the state. He has continued to misstate the remedies sought in this case for new Americans. He also continues to advocate that Georgia pass an unnecessary and redundant amendment to restrict voting in the state to citizens—which is already Georgia law.” – Fair Fight Action Communications Director Xakota Espinoza
Watch additional opening remarks from Fair Fight Action’s latest trial press conference here.
Georgia’s May 24 primary witnessed historic levels of voter turnout and strong Democratic enthusiasm despite having no competitive races at the top of the ticket. This record turnout follows years of dedicated organizing by activists on the ground, and suggests voters are more determined than ever to make their voices heard—even as voters experienced a series of problems stemming from anti-voter law SB 202 and the Secretary of State’s continued mishandling of election administration.
The high voter turnout rates are also a reflection of the ongoing efforts of local activists who have been working tirelessly to mitigate the harmful impacts of SB 202—many of which were on display during the May 24 primary.
The bottom line? The May 24 Georgia primary saw several significant statewide issues that were the result of the failed Republican leadership overseeing elections administration. These issues included, but were not limited to:
1. The Secretary of State’s Office sent delayed, incorrect, or no precinct cards whatsoever to counties to send to their voters, who rely on these cards for polling location information.
- This has often been due to belated redistricting updates, which is the Secretary of State’s duty to oversee and ensure are timely.
- This ineptitude led to polling location confusion among voters across the state, in both blue and red counties.
- At a minimum, DeKalb, Fulton, Cherokee and Cobb Counties experienced issues with voters at the incorrect polling locations. This is particularly troublesome as SB 202 significantly limits voters’ ability to cast out-of-precinct provisional ballots.
2. Statewide online voter information platforms run by the Secretary of State’s Office, including eNet and the My Voter Page portal, malfunctioned for days and sometimes weeks at a time during the early voting period and leading up to May 24.
- Voters were unable to access reliable information about where, when, and how to vote. Once again, this is particularly troubling due to restrictions on out-of-precinct provisional ballots.
- The SOS indicated an expired “website certification” had led to some of the eNet outages that occurred. Other than that, the office provided no public response.
3. Lack of economic resources, infrastructure, and training support from the State left several counties with voting machine and other technical issues thatdelayed voting start times.
- Voters had to wait in long lines, return to the polls later, or were unable to vote.
- Chatham, Bibb, Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb Counties experienced delays in polling location openings or for ballot submissions due to technology issues with voting machines or scanning machines.
4. The Secretary of State continues to refuse to provide notice to voters who may have faced difficulties in updating their voter registration over the course of 15+ months due to a change in the state’s “automatic” voter registration interface.
- Voters who believe they have correctly updated their registration through DDS may be prohibited from voting.
- The Secretary of State gave an open refusal to provide voters with necessary, available information.
5. Voters who fall victim to any of the above sources of incorrect information about where they should go to vote and cast their vote by provisional ballot before 5:00pm will not have their vote counted, greatly limiting their access to the ballot.
6. SB 202 significantly burdens voters who wish to vote by mail by shortening the request and return periods and imposing new wet signature and ID requirements.
- Ahead of Tuesday’s primary election, 2,795 applications were rejected (2.89% of total applications). This rate is seven times higher than in June 2020 (the rate was 0.42%)
- 14% of rejected applications have been rejected for ID or DOB issues, 2% were rejected because the application was received too early, and 51% because the application was received too late — the deadline to request a ballot was Friday 5/13 (which is 5 days sooner than was supported in 2020, due to the 2021 passage of SB 202)
- In the municipal elections of 2021, only 39% of voters whose applications were rejected voted successfully. That means 61% of voters whose applications were rejected in the ‘21 election were unable to successfully cast a ballot in the municipal elections.
7. Voters of color were disproportionately affected by high vote-by-mail application rejection rates. Black voters represented 32% of applications, but 44.7% of those whose applications were rejected.
- Statewide avg application rejection rate: 2.98%
- White: 2.22%
- Black: 4.17%
- Hispanic/Latino: 5.28%
- AAPI: 5.91%
Instead of responding to these myriad needs, Brad Raffensperger has spent this election cycle patting himself on the back for the tireless work of local elections administrators across the state, and repetitiously insisting that Georgia pass an unneeded, xenophobic constitutional amendment limiting voting in the state to citizens—which is already Georgia law.
Group continues commitment to building and expanding the bench of pro-democracy public servants to protect our freedom to vote with endorsements in U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and Secretary of State races
ATLANTA — Today, Fair Fight announced its newest slate of endorsements ahead of the 2022 midterm elections in Georgia–and its first statewide endorsements of the cycle. The group is supporting Reverend Raphael Warnock for the U.S. Senate, Stacey Abrams for Governor, and Bee Nguyen for Secretary of State. These pro-voting candidates have a proven track record of working to defend our democracy and bring historically marginalized communities into the fold of our democratic process. They will continue to empower Georgians in every corner of the state and help our communities get ahead–and stay ahead.
Fair Fight Executive Director Cianti Stewart- Reid issued the following statement:
“‘Fair Fight is proud to endorse Reverend Raphael Warnock, Stacey Abrams, and Bee Nguyen in their respective bids to represent all Georgians. Electing pro-voting candidates is more important than ever as the purveyors of voter suppression continue their attempts to silence the voices of Black, brown, and young voters. Voting rights, affordable quality health care, an economy that puts workers first, our students’ public education, reproductive freedom, and so much more are all at stake. That is why it is critical Georgians show up and show out to elect leaders like Reverend Raphael Warnock, Stacey Abrams, and Bee Nguyen. These groundbreaking candidates understand the struggles of everyday Georgians because they have lived them. And as we continue to recover from Covid-19 and subsequent economic hardships, we are proud to stand behind these changemakers who will stand up for working Georgians and struggling families.’”