June 30, 2021

DOJ Sues Georgia

Sponsored by

If reading business news has you counting sheep, The Daily Upside is the espresso shot you've been looking for. An unbiased, no-nonsense daily newsletter bringing insights and stories you won't find anywhere else. And the best part? The Flip Side readers can sign up for free.

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee with The Daily Upside.

From the Left

The left supports the lawsuit, arguing that Georgia’s law is discriminatory.

“After years of pushing Republican voters to cast mail ballots, the GOP-controlled legislature made it harder to vote by mail only after the Black share of mail voters increased in 2020 and the white share decreased. The new law prevents election officials from sending mail ballot request forms to voters, requires new ID requirements for mail ballots (Black voters represent 56 percent of voters who do not have a driver’s license number associated with their registration, but are only 29 percent of the electorate), and severely cuts the number of mail ballot drop boxes in four metro Atlanta counties with large Black populations—from 111 in 2020 to just over 20 in future elections.”
Ari Berman, Mother Jones

“The department cited evidence that Black voters were more likely to request absentee ballots in general, more likely to do so in the final days before Election Day, and less likely to meet the new ID requirements. ‘SB 202’s limits on the number of drop boxes that each county may deploy will cause a precipitous decline in drop box availability in the counties that are home to the largest number of Black voters in the State,’ the department also claimed…

“Finally, the Justice Department challenged one of the most infamous provisions of SB 202: a total ban on handing out food or drinks to voters while they wait in line outside polling places. In Georgia’s larger urban areas, long lines are a common enough occurrence at the polls that voting rights groups often hand out supplies so voters can stay in line…

“‘These efforts were frequently run by Black-led community organizations to provide respite to waiting voters at majority-minority polling places, which have been disproportionately plagued by long lines,’ the department noted, suggesting that the ban was intended to ensure that the long lines dissuade Black voters from casting ballots.”
Matt Ford, New Republic

“The Georgia lawsuit is Garland’s warning to other states that election laws that disenfranchise minority voters are vulnerable to challenge… During oral argument in Brnovich, an attorney for the Arizona Republican Party, Michael Carvin, perhaps went beyond what the court was expecting when he answered Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s question about why the party was involved in defending an Arizona law…

“He said the 9th Circuit’s ruling ‘puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game, and every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us.’ That’s what the DOJ is up against. Bald efforts to win elections by denying people, most often Black people, the right to vote.”
Joyce White Vance, Washington Post

Yet in order to win the case, “[The DOJ will] have to overcome a raft of recent precedents undermining the Voting Rights Act. The most harmful of these cases to the DOJ’s chances of prevailing is Abbott v. Perez (2018), a 5-4 Supreme Court decision handed down along party lines. Perez held that lawmakers accused of acting with racist intent enjoy such a high presumption of racial innocence that few litigants will be able to overcome it…

“As Justice Samuel Alito wrote for his Court in Perez, ‘whenever a challenger claims that a state law was enacted with discriminatory intent, the burden of proof lies with the challenger, not the State.’… the deck is heavily stacked against [the DOJ], no matter how strong their case may be.”
Ian Millhiser, Vox

“In Georgia, at least 10 county election officials, most of them Democrats and half of them Black, have been removed or had their positions eliminated, or are expected to be replaced by Republicans under local ordinances and a bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year… The ouster of local and state election officials is only one aspect of Republican lawmakers' multi-pronged approach to seize more power over elections…  

“A Texas voting package would make it a crime to send an unsolicited ballot application to a voter or to attempt to stop disruptive poll watchers, among other routine election administration functions… North Carolina Republicans passed a bill that would give them the ability to block the Democratic-led elections board from settling lawsuits over ballot access…

“At least 14 states have introduced bills that would seize power from election officials or otherwise limit their authority… ‘This is part and parcel of a very anti-democratic push to make sure that people who vote against you don't get to vote and if they accidentally do, 'Don't worry, we'll throw out their votes.’”
Igor Derysh, Salon

From the Right

The right is critical of the lawsuit, arguing that Georgia’s law is not discriminatory.

The right is critical of the lawsuit, arguing that Georgia’s law is not discriminatory.

“In 2019 [ballot drop boxes] were illegal in Georgia. When the pandemic hit, the state temporarily approved them, and there were 38 in Fulton County, which contains most of Atlanta. If the Legislature had done nothing, the lapsing of the emergency authorization would have outlawed drop boxes again. Instead lawmakers made them permanent, albeit under tighter rules that let Fulton County set up only eight. Essentially, the feds are arguing that any retreat from Covid rules is racist

“Georgia’s new law no longer requires election workers to squint at voters’ signatures. Rather, someone applying for a mail ballot will supply a state-ID number or a copy of another identifying document, such as a utility bill. The feds say this is a burden on black voters. But Senator Joe Manchin has proposed a similar nationwide rule, which was embraced by Georgia’s own Stacey Abrams. And what about the old system’s flaws? In Georgia’s 2018 election, black voters accounted for 54% of the ballots rejected for signature or oath issues…

“The Justice Department also does a lot of hand-waving about Georgia’s alleged political climate, citing everything from racist social-media comments posted by random members of the public, who might not even live in Georgia, to a speech in which former Sen. David Perdue ‘mocked the pronunciation of then-Senator Kamala Harris ’ first name.’…

“If nothing else, the suit proves that the Supreme Court was right in 2013 to throw out the Voting Rights Act’s old ‘preclearance’ regime, which would have let the Justice Department unilaterally block Georgia’s election law, no matter the flimsy evidence.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Georgia’s voter ID requirement for in-person voting has been in place without any problems since 2008, after courts decided it was both constitutional and did not discriminate under the Voting Rights Act. Yet, the Justice Department’s lawsuit claims extending the ID requirement to absentee ballots racially discriminates…

“What is particularly bizarre about this claim is that Georgia’s voter ID requirement is similar to Alabama’s voter ID law, which was enacted in 2014 and applies to both in-person and absentee balloting. Just last year, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a lawsuit filed against Alabama that made the same arguments the Justice Department is now using against Georgia…

“[Similarly] Contrary to the Justice Department’s claim, there is nothing remotely discriminatory about requiring individuals to request an absentee ballot at least 11 days before Election Day instead of the prior deadline of only four days… [last July] The Postal Service told states the optimal deadline should be at least 15 days before Election Day ‘to account for [USPS] delivery standards.’ Georgia acted to protect its voters, not disenfranchise them

“The Justice Department also claims Georgia’s prohibition on providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote racially discriminates… The new Georgia ban on food and water is virtually identical to a New York election law that prohibits giving voters ‘any meat, drink, tobacco, refreshment or provision’ unless it has ‘a retail value of less than one dollar.’ The Justice Department has not sued New York over this long-standing prohibition or claimed that it is racially discriminatory.”
Hans von Spakovsky and Zack Smith, Daily Signal

“The immediate question: Why now? The Supreme Court is expected, any day now, to decide Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. This lawsuit is brought under the same statute at issue in Brnovich: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act…

“Any lawyer can tell you that you’d rather know the governing law as you draft your complaint, so if a potentially major Supreme Court decision is coming down within days, you wait if it is possible to wait. It is embarrassing to have to immediately amend your pleading under a different theory, if the Court expands or contracts what you can do. There was no legal or practical need to file now, rather than wait a few days: No statute of limitations is about to expire, and no election is imminently about to be held under SB 202…

“Why the rush? The answer is right there in Garland’s remarks on the lawsuit: The case had to be filed on June 25 because it was the anniversary of the Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision, with which Garland and his staff disagree. The purpose of choosing that anniversary was to frame the lawsuit in the context of a political protest that would spur Congress to pass legislation that the Biden administration supports.”
Dan McLaughlin, National Review

A centrist perspective

“[A] poll from Monmouth University found that 80 percent of Americans supported voter IDs. While some activists argue such requirements are racist, other polling shows broad support for IDs among Black and other non-white voters. It is evident: Americans believe voters should be able to prove they are who they say they are. They also want anyone who is eligible to vote to have that opportunity. So why are Democrats attempting to hamper states’ ability to check voter IDs, and why are Republicans fighting for laws that are confusing and would have little impact?…

“Is, for example, giving more authority to poll watchers with partisan leanings really going to increase security? Or, will preventing people from handing out water bottles really cause people to leave the polls before voting?… Instead of passing confusing and ineffective laws for political posturing, states must invest in the type of security infrastructure that keeps mail-in ballots secure. In Washington, a deep-blue state with a Republican Secretary of State, signatures on ballots are matched to an online database to confirm identity, and ‘air-gap’ computers are used to prevent hacking. To be sure, these systems did not develop overnight — it took Washington many years to perfect this method. All the more reason states should stop wasting time and get to work now.”
Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen, The Hill

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.