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Attorneys General James Co-Leads Coalition in Taking Action Against Georgia’s Discriminatory Voting Law

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine today co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in opposing Georgia’s discriminatory law that would make it more difficult for millions of Georgians — especially Black Georgians — to vote. The law disproportionately impacts low-income and rural communities, and includes provisions that impede Black voter mobilization efforts, such as banning government entities from distributing unsolicited absentee ballot applications, criminalizing the distribution of food and water to voters waiting in line, requiring ID for absentee ballots, and limiting the placement of ballot drop boxes.

In an amicus brief filed in United States v. Georgia, the coalition is pushing back against misguided efforts to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against Georgia to overturn this law. The attorneys general argue that the DOJ is correct in its argument that Georgia intentionally discriminated against Black and minority voters, in violation of federal law, and that the case should proceed to trial. The brief also suggests that Georgia’s purportedly non-discriminatory reasons for adopting the law — to prevent voter fraud — are not valid.

“Georgia’s new voting law serves but one purpose — to continue generations of oppressive actions that disenfranchise the votes and voices of Black people,” said Attorney General James. “This law is a direct attack against the people of Georgia, and an attack against the democratic values that this country prides itself on. I stand with my fellow attorneys general to reject all attempts to suppress the will and the rights of Black Georgians.”

“The impact of Georgia’s new election law is clear — it will ensure that only some votes are counted while making it harder for Black voters to have their voices heard,” said Attorney General Racine. “Following a historic election with record Black turnout, the legislature responded by making it harder for Black Georgians to vote. We have seen this destructive and anti-democratic playbook before. The right to vote is sacred. States must promote free and fair elections, and expanding the opportunity for all voters is critical to making that possible. We urge the court to let this case proceed to trial.”

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, during the 2021 legislative session, more than 400 bills to restrict voting access were introduced in 49 states. In addition, at least 18 states passed and enacted 30 restrictive laws making vote-by-mail and early voting more difficult, putting in place harsher voter ID requirements, and making voter purges more likely, among other restrictive actions.

The coalition of attorneys general are specifically urging the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to allow the case to move forward because:

  • The federal government’s complaint properly alleges that Georgia intended to discriminate against Black and minority voters. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that to prove discrimination, a plaintiff does not need to show direct evidence of discriminatory intent. Rather, bedrock civil rights law makes clear that parties can prove intentional discrimination by pointing to circumstantial facts and context that suggest an impermissible motive — including the political incentives and wider racial dynamics underlying an enactment. At this early stage in the case, plausible allegations of intent are enough to warrant the case moving forward. Given the overwhelming evidence demonstrating that Georgia enacted these laws in response to the results of the 2020 election — where record Black turnout unseated two Republican senators and delivered Georgia to a Democratic president for the first time in nearly 20 years — the DOJ has clearly met the necessary evidentiary burden for this case to proceed.

  • Georgia’s supposedly non-discriminatory reasons for passing the law do not hold up under scrutiny. While Georgia has the authority and discretion to enact some laws that improve “election security” and “voter confidence,” states cannot invoke those interests as pretext for impairing the opportunities of vulnerable voters. Other states have been able to achieve those exact same goals through policy decisions that expand voter access, while keeping the risk of voter fraud minimal. For example, New York, the District of Columbia, and other states like California, Nevada, and Vermont have enacted reforms that simultaneously expand access and promote election security. When a state suddenly claws back existing access for voters — particularly voters of color after an historic election — without any genuine need or evidentiary basis, courts should be skeptical that “election integrity” is the genuine reason for the reduction in voting opportunities.

Attorneys General James and Racine led the amicus brief and were joined by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

This action is the latest in a series of measures that Attorney General James has taken to fight back against attempts to suppress the right to vote in communities of color. In June 2021, Attorney General James sued the Rensselaer County Board of Elections for denying communities of color access to early voting sites. In May 2021, Attorney General James sued two people for their efforts to suppress Black voters through disinformation robocalls ahead of the 2020 election.