Raffensperger Defeats Stacey Abrams’ ‘Stolen Election’ Claims in Court
The lawsuit alleging discriminatory and suppressive election practices in Georgia has been decided in favor of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the State Elections Board on all counts, according to a 288-page order entered by U.S District Court Steve Jones on Friday, September 30. “This is a win for all Georgia election officials who dedicate their lives to safe, secure and accessible elections,” said Raffensperger in a statement on the Secretary of State website. “Stolen election and voter suppression claims by Stacey Abrams were nothing but poll-tested rhetoric not supported by facts and evidence.”
Abrams, who founded Fair Fight Action, and other plaintiffs filed an initial complaint in November 2018, shortly after Abrams lost her race against Brian Kemp to become Georgia’s governor, alleging illegal and unconstitutional practices had denied the right to vote to thousands of Georgians. The allegations attempted to raise issues regarding Georgia’s absentee ballot procedures, voter registration, and voter list management practices. The court has denied every allegation on each issue.
From the beginning Raffensperger argued that Georgia’s elections systems and procedures were accessible and secure, and acknowledged the challenge in balancing voter access with election integrity while strictly abiding by voting laws and the Constitution.
In its decision, the court agreed, noting the impossibility of perfect elections given the millions of voters and tens of thousands of poll workers necessary to run an election, “[al] though Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the Voting Rights Act (VRA.)” Raffensperger said he is grateful the matter is settled, adding 'this allows our local election officials to fully focus on the task at hand this year — running a safe, secure, and accessible election.”
He added, “This decision should quiet all those who sow fear and public distrust by denying the results of Georgia’s elections, so that Georgians know they can cast a vote, and that it will be counted in elections that are free and fair.”
Fair Fight Action Likely to Appeal
Lawyers for Fair fight Action said Monday they will likely appeal last week’s ruling, Rebecca Grapevine of Capitol Beat News Service reported.
Fair Fight Action’s lawsuit challenged a long list of Georgia election policies as unconstitutional. The lawsuit said Georgia’s requirement that voter records exactly match driver’s license records was too aggressive and prevented thousands of Georgians from being able to register to vote properly. And state processes caused problems when verifying that potential voters were citizens and not former felons.
Those problems, and others, disproportionately impacted voters of color, making it more difficult for them to vote, lawyers for Fair Fight argued. Judge Jones ruled last Friday that Fair Fight had not sufficiently proved a disparate impact on voters of color in the lawsuit, which he said was the longest-running voting rights case in the history of the court.
“Obviously, this decision was not the decision we were hoping for,” Fair Fight’s lead lawyer, Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, said Monday during a press conference held in response to the ruling.
“A federal court has found that there are severe burdens on voters and constitutional violations in our election system,” Lawrence-Hardy said, noting the judge’s opinion identified many problems in Georgia’s elections policies. “Yet the court has only issued recommendations instead of mandated relief.
It’s baffling that Secretary [of State Brad] Raffensperger or Governor [Brian] Kemp could read this court’s findings … and celebrate them because this court has found severe burdens on voters of color in Georgia.”
Despite the legal defeat, Lawrence-Hardy said the lawsuit had achieved some important successes and raised awareness about problems with Georgia’s system.
The lawsuit led Georgia to make changes to ensure some voters were not purged from voter rolls, to update election-worker training materials, and to change the law on absentee ballot cancellations to make it easier for people to vote.
“Because of this suit, the election system in Georgia has changed,” Lawrence-Hardy said.
State Republican leaders called the decision a victory, saying it vindicates their approach to Georgia elections.
“In Georgia, it is easy to vote and hard to cheat— and I’m going to continue to work to keep it that way,” said Governor Kemp, who served as secretary of state until defeating Abrams in the governor’s race in 2018.
Abrams is running against Kemp for governor again this fall.