ATLANTA (CN) — An organization backed by former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams filed a wide-reaching federal lawsuit Tuesday asking a judge to strike down state laws that the plaintiffs claim resulted in election mismanagement, frozen voter registrations and cancelled ballots.
The complaint filed Tuesday against Georgia’s interim secretary of state, Robyn Crittenden, and the State Election Board requests numerous changes to Georgia’s election system and laws.
The lawsuit comes days after Abrams conceded defeat in a fierce race against Republican nominee and former Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Throughout the campaign, Abrams referred to Kemp as an “architect of voter suppression” and protested the fairness of the election, which Kemp presided over as Secretary of State. Kemp did not resign his position until after Election Day.
Although the eventual outcome of the lawsuit won’t affect the results of the contentious midterm election, it could have a major impact on the 2020 election in Georgia.
Filed by Fair Fight Action, a new nonprofit group founded by Abrams’ supporters, and Care in Action, a voting rights nonprofit that represents the interests of domestic workers, the lawsuit calls for changes to Georgia’s “exact match” law, which requires voter registration information to exactly match information in government databases. Incorrect punctuation or even the addition of an extra space in a name could result in a voter’s registration being rejected.
The complaint also requests the elimination of Georgia’s “use it or lose it” law, which permits the Secretary of State to remove voters from the registration rolls if they don’t regularly vote or make contact with election officials.
“Georgia has a history of neglecting its elections infrastructure and suppressing votes–particularly of people of color,” the complaint states.
“[D]ecades-long neglect of the elections infrastructure left a system virtually guaranteed to fail. And time-tested voter suppression tactics further burdened the right to vote: voters faced a systematic disregard for established rules; a refusal to provide resources adequate to enable a fair voting process; and policies and practices that stifled the votes of the people,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint points to Kemp’s removal of millions of voters from Georgia’s registration rolls under the “use it or lose it” law, state election officials’ rejection of tens of thousands of voter registrations and hundreds of absentee ballots based on the “exact match” policy, the elimination and relocation of polling places in neighborhoods with high populations of minority voters, long lines on Election Day and inadequate numbers of voting machines as examples of systemic voter suppression.
Voters were also deprived of their right to vote by inadequately trained county election officials who failed to provide absentee ballots requested by voters and refused to provide provisional ballots to voters on Election Day, the complaint alleges.
And Georgia’s “unreliable” voting machines provided yet another obstacle to voters, the complaint states.
Georgia is one of five states in the country that still uses an entirely paperless voting system. Election security experts say that without a paper trail, Georgia’s direct-recording electronic voting machines are vulnerable to hacking.
The lawsuit claims that the obstacles to voting in Georgia violate the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the Voting Rights Act, and the Help America Vote Act.
The complaint asks the court to reinstate all eligible voters removed from Georgia’s voter rolls under the “use it or lose it” policy, enjoin state election officials from using the “exact match” policy, register all Georgia voters whose registrations were blocked under the “exact match” policy, and order state officials to replace Georgia’s” insecure and unreliable” DRE voting machines with paper ballots and optical scanners.
“It is a sad day in Georgia that voters’ constitutional rights were trampled on during the 2018 election,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ campaign manager and the new CEO of Fair Fight Georgia, said in a statement Tuesday.
“This lawsuit demands massive reforms to Georgia elections. Through this litigation and other efforts, Fair Fight Action will continue to advance voting rights in our state,” Groh-Wargo said.
“Voters – especially people of color, women, and low-income Georgians — across our state faced mass chaos and disenfranchisement on Election Day and during early voting,” Sen. Nikema Williams, state director of Care in Action, said Tuesday.
Williams called the lawsuit “unprecedented” and vowed to ” correct these wrongs for future elections.”
There are now nearly a dozen lawsuits pending in federal and superior courts challenging Georgia’s electoral systems and practices.
Governor-elect Kemp, who defeated Abrams by a margin of approximately 55,000 votes out of over 3.9 million votes cast and is prepared to take office in January, said last week that he was not concerned with “ridiculous lawsuits” over Georgia’s election system.