Judge Rules That Georgia Ban on Photographing Voted Ballot Likely Unconstitutional

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction on part of Georgia's new election law, ruling that a ban on photographing a voted ballot is likely unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee on Friday wrote that Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity group that filed a lawsuit, and others "have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim" that the broad ban on photographing a voted ballot violates First Amendment rights.

"The Court's striking of the Photography Ban was an important first step in demonstrating that [the voting law] is an overreach by lawmakers who prefer ballots to be counted behind closed doors, blocking the important oversight of the press and public," Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, said in a statement.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Georgia Preliminaries
A judge ruled the part of Georgia's new voting law that prohibits photographing a voted ballot is likely unconstitutional. Above, people wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election on June 9, 2020, in Atlanta. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Boulee on Friday granted a preliminary injunction on that section of the law, meaning it cannot be enforced for now. In the same order, he declined to block a number of other provisions that mostly have to do with monitoring or photographing parts of the election process.

The new law, known as SB 202, also adds a voter ID requirement for mail ballots, shortens the time period for requesting a mail ballot, results in fewer ballot drop boxes available in metro Atlanta and gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials.

There are currently eight federal lawsuits challenging parts of the 98-page law enacted earlier this year, including one filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who's a defendant in the lawsuit along with the members of the State Election Board, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. But he has previously said he's confident the new law will withstand court challenges.

While the lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Good Governance challenges many aspects of the law, including the part that allows the State Election Board to remove county election superintendents, the request for preliminary injunction that was the subject of Boulee's ruling was relatively narrow.

It argued that the provisions in question criminalize normal election observation activities. Lawyers for the state had argued those parts of the law reinforce previous protections and are necessary for election integrity.

Boulee declined to block another photography provision that prohibits the photographing or recording of the face of a touchscreen voting machine while someone is voting or while a voter's selections are displayed.

Among the other provisions he declined to block are ones that: prohibit people from intentionally observing a person who's voting in a way that would allow the observer to see the voter's choices; require that absentee ballots be requested at least 11 days before an election; and prohibit observers from communicating any information they see during absentee ballot processing to anyone other than election officials.

For the People Act Rally
A judge ruled the part of Georgia's new voting law that prohibits photographing a voted ballot is likely unconstitutional. Above, Georgia state Representative Rhonda Taylor (center) raises her fist as she listens to Senator Raphael Warnock speak during a rally about voting rights and ending the filibuster near the U.S. Capitol on August 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images