Judge rejects challenge to Georgia’s new election law

A federal judge Wednesday threw out a challenge to portions of Georgia’s controversial new election law as poorly timed.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee ruled that with runoff elections for vacant state House seats in Cobb County and southeast Georgia set for next Tuesday, it’s too late to change provisions in the current law.

“The underlying elections have already occurred, and Plaintiffs seek an order that would mandate different rules for the related runoff elections,” Boulee wrote in an 11-page order.

“Election administrators have prepared to implement the challenged rules, have implemented them at least to some extent and now would have to grapple with a different set of rules in the middle of the election.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed Senate Bill 202 in March, and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed it that same day. Among other things, the legislation replaces the signature-match verification process for absentee ballots with an ID requirement, restricts the location of ballot drop boxes and prohibits non-poll workers from handing out food and drinks within 150 feet of voters standing in line.

A lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Coalition for Good Governance takes on other provisions in the new law governing election observers and requiring requests for absentee ballots to be made at least 11 days before an election.

The plaintiffs argued those provisions violate the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and constitutional free speech rights.

The suit is one of a series of legal challenges that Democrats and voting rights advocates have mounted against Senate Bill 202, most recently a lawsuit the Biden administration’s Justice Department filed late last month.

“This is just another in the line of frivolous lawsuits against Georgia’s election law based on misinformation and lies,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday. “We will continue to meet them and beat them in court.”

Boulee limited the scope of Wednesday’s order to the upcoming runoff elections. The judge reserved a decision on future elections and indicated a second order will be forthcoming at a future date.

The July 13 runoff in Cobb County will pit Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith to complete the unexpired term of former Georgia Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta. Reeves left the legislature for an administrative position at Georgia Tech, his alma mater.

In southeast Georgia that day, Republicans Leesa Hagan and Wally Sapp will vie in House District 156, which covers parts of Appling, Jeff Davis, Montgomery and Toombs counties. Former Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, is now serving on the State Transportation Board representing Georgia’s 12th Congressional District.

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