Ruling in favor of the state on all remaining issues in a lawsuit filed nearly four years ago, it was found by a federal judge that Georgia election practices challenged by a group associated with Democrat Stacey Abrams do not violate the constitutional rights of voters.
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Referring to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in Atlanta wrote: “Although Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the VRA.” His reasoning was detailed in a 288-page order.
The lawsuit was filed just weeks after Abrams narrowly lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp in November 2018. Abrams had accused Kemp, then secretary of state throughout that contest, of using his position as the state’s top elections official to promote voter suppression. The allegations were vehemently denied by Kemp.
Kemp called the ruling a loss for Abrams and applauded it, according to NBC News.
In a statement emailed by Kemp’s campaign, he said: “Judge Jones’ ruling exposes this legal effort for what it really is: a tool wielded by a politician hoping to wrongfully weaponize the legal system to further her own political goals.”
Although the lawsuit helped bring about positive change in Georgia, Abrams and Fair Fight expressed disappointment in the decision.
“While the Court’s actions are not the preferred outcome, the conduct of this trial and preceding cases and legislative actions represent a hard-won victory for voters who endured long lines, burdensome date of birth requirements, and exact match laws that disproportionately impact Black and Brown voters,” Abrams said in a statement.
The trial began unfolding while Georgia’s primary elections were underway in mid-April. The stage for a rematch between Kemp and Abrams, who captured their parties’ gubernatorial nominations for November’s general election, was set by those contests.
Over the course of 21 trial days that stretched across more than two months, nearly five dozen witnesses were called. It was a bench trial, which means that there was no jury and the verdict was up to Jones alone.
The lawsuit was filed by Abrams’ Fair Fight Action organization along with a nonprofit that advocates for domestic workers, called Care in Action, and several churches later also joined as plaintiffs. It was extremely broad when it was originally filed, and called for a significant overhaul of Georgia’s election system. The scope had been significantly narrowed by the time it got to trial because some allegations were resolved by changes in state law and others were dismissed by the court.
Jones wrote: “This is a voting rights case that resulted in wins and losses for all parties over the course of the litigation and culminated in what is believed to have been the longest voting rights bench trial in the history of the Northern District of Georgia.”