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Georgia Speaker responds to Justice Department’s election lawsuit

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ATLANTA – U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice is suing Geor­gia con­cern­ing the Elec­tion Integri­ty Act on the basis it infringes on civ­il rights. 

Democ­rats have wide­ly derid­ed the con­tro­ver­sial law as racist and designed to lim­it minor­i­ty vot­ing in Geor­gia. Pres­i­dent Joe Biden (D — Delaware) even called the bill “Jim Eagle” in com­par­i­son to Jim Crow laws. 

The law expands ear­ly vot­ing in the state and puts in place a state-ver­i­fied ID require­ment. No excuse absen­tee vot­ing is still a part of Geor­gia Law. 

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston
Geor­gia Speak­er of the House David Ralston

Geor­gia Speak­er of the House David Ral­ston (R – Blue Ridge) has issued the fol­low­ing statement: 

“Today’s law­suit is par­ti­san pageantry at tax­pay­er expense. Meant to dis­tract from the Biden Administration’s fail­ure to pass its elec­tion leg­is­la­tion, which had many sim­i­lar require­ments to SB 202 such as vot­er ID, this law­suit only serves to need­less­ly divide our coun­try and pro­vide a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty fundrais­ing opportunity. 

“Georgia’s Elec­tion Integri­ty Act makes vot­ing more acces­si­ble and secure. We will vig­or­ous­ly defend our sys­tem of free and fair elec­tions. It is shock­ing and sad that the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion would stoop to push a polit­i­cal pow­er grab which would repeal vot­er ID and strikes at the very heart of our sys­tem of federalism.”

The law also pro­hibits cam­paigns from hand­ing out food or water with­in 150 feet of a polling place in line with pre­vi­ous elec­tion laws con­cern­ing cam­paign­ing around polling places. The move was intend­ed to give vot­ers pri­va­cy before enter­ing a vot­ing booth. Polling places can still pro­vide water to vot­ers in line. 

The run-off peri­od was short­ened from nine weeks to four weeks. Addi­tion­al­ly, rules per­tain­ing to drop box­es were put into place. Pre­vi­ous­ly, Geor­gia elec­tion law didn’t account for drop box­es and the recep­ta­cles only came into place due to the pan­dem­ic. Going for­ward, the num­ber of box­es will be lim­it­ed and must be inside a facility. 

Elec­tion Integri­ty Act of 2021 does lim­it the pow­er of the Sec­re­tary of State, remov­ing the elect­ed offi­cial as chair­man of the state board of elec­tions. The Sec­re­tary of State will now be a “non­vot­ing ex offi­cio mem­ber” and the leg­is­la­ture will appoint the chair­man. The state board can now over­see and review the per­for­mance of local elec­tion boards too. If a board is found lack­ing, the state board can appoint a new super­vi­sor for that county. 

The Unit­ed States’ com­plaint chal­lenges sev­er­al pro­vi­sions of Sen­ate Bill 202, includ­ing a pro­vi­sion ban­ning gov­ern­ment enti­ties from dis­trib­ut­ing unso­licit­ed absen­tee bal­lot appli­ca­tions; the impo­si­tion of cost­ly and oner­ous fines on civic orga­ni­za­tions, church­es and advo­ca­cy groups that dis­trib­ute fol­low-up absen­tee bal­lot appli­ca­tions; the short­en­ing of the dead­line to request absen­tee bal­lots to 11 days before Elec­tion Day; the require­ment that vot­ers who do not have iden­ti­fi­ca­tion issued by the Geor­gia Depart­ment of Dri­ver Ser­vices pho­to­copy anoth­er form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in order to request an absen­tee bal­lot with­out allow­ing for use of the last four dig­its of a social secu­ri­ty num­ber for such appli­ca­tions; sig­nif­i­cant lim­i­ta­tions on coun­ties’ use of absen­tee bal­lot drop box­es; the pro­hi­bi­tion on efforts by church­es and civic groups to pro­vide food or water to per­sons wait­ing in long lines to vote; and the pro­hi­bi­tion on count­ing out-of-precinct pro­vi­sion­al bal­lots cast before 5 p.m. on Elec­tion Day. The com­plaint asks the court to pro­hib­it Geor­gia from enforc­ing these requirements.

Cur­rent Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er (R – Ga) was one of sev­er­al elect­ed offi­cials in Geor­gia push­ing back the hard­est against for­mer Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion fraud claims. He’s insist­ed the elec­tion was fair and hon­est. His office also instruct­ed three recounts which failed to uncov­er any mas­sive vot­er fraud. 

Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mer­rick Gar­land stat­ed ear­li­er this year that his depart­ment was look­ing into states’ new vot­ing laws and post-elec­tion audits. He also dou­bled the num­ber of peo­ple in the Civ­il Rights Divi­sion look­ing into vot­ing rights. 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland
U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mer­rick Garland

“The right of all eli­gi­ble cit­i­zens to vote is the cen­tral pil­lar of our democ­ra­cy, the right from which all oth­er rights ulti­mate­ly flow,” said Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mer­rick B. Gar­land  “This law­suit is the first step of many we are tak­ing to ensure that all eli­gi­ble vot­ers can cast a vote; that all law­ful votes are count­ed; and that every vot­er has access to accu­rate information.” 

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