Voting rights trial under way in Georgia

The first voting rights trial in federal court in Atlanta in more than a decade opened Monday.

Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by 2018 and 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and several Black churches are accusing Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the GOP-controlled State Election Board of erecting unjustifiable barriers to voting that have disproportionately affected voters of color.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones already has dismissed some of the lawsuit’s allegations, those he said were addressed by changes to state election laws the General Assembly passed last year, prompting Raffensperger to refer to the suit at a news conference Monday as a “hollowed-out shell.”

But several significant charges will be heard during the trial, which is expected to last several weeks. Witnesses will include voters who have encountered various obstacles either trying to register to vote or to cast their ballots.

“After repeated attempts by the state to silence the voice of the voters, these Georgians refuse to be sidelined,” Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said at a news conference Monday following the trial’s opening day. “These voters are finally going to have their stories told.”

Lawrence-Hardy said the lawsuit is challenging the state’s “exact-match” policy, which requires information provided on voter-registration applications to match information held by the state Department of Driver Services or the federal Social Security Administration.

The plaintiffs also accuse the secretary of state’s office of mismanaging voter rolls by wrongly purging Georgians from the list and providing inadequate training in handling cancellations of absentee ballots.

Raffensperger said the case is about nothing less than ensuring the integrity of Georgia’s elections.

“Election integrity and security has been my priority since day one,” he said. “Protecting the sanctity of Georgia’s elections is my top priority.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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