Trump-Appointed Judge Says 8 Lawsuits Challenging Georgia's New Election Law Can Proceed

U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee said Thursday that eight lawsuits challenging Georgia's new voting law can move forward.

Boulee, a Trump appointee, gave the go-ahead after rejecting motions for dismissal, though he said he might condense the lawsuits based on their similarity.

The majority of the lawsuits brought against the SB 202 election law allege that it violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against voters. The new law features new identification requirements for absentee voting and shortens the amount of time a voter can request an absentee ballot, among other things.

One of the lawsuits brought against the bill specifically calls into question how the State Election Board can remove county election officials, which they said violates the right to free speech and is unconstitutional. County election board members, journalists, voters, election volunteers and nonprofit organizations filed the lawsuit against the secretary of state and members of the State Election Board.

In an email, Rahul Garabadu, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told the Associated Press that "Georgia's anti-voter law makes it harder to vote for Georgia's citizens of color and citizens with disabilities, and we look forward to continue to fight this law in court."

Georgia state officials disagree with the critics. They claim Georgia's law is in line with other states' election laws and doesn't discriminate against voters.

Election, Poll, Georgia,
A federal judge on December 9, 2021, rejected motions to dismiss eight lawsuits that challenge Georgia’s sweeping new election law. Above, a poll worker talks to a voter on Election Day in Atlanta on November 3, 2020. Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Georgia's law is one of many approved by Republican-led legislatures after former President Donald Trump and his allies pushed unfounded claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election. Democrats, voting rights groups and other critics say it infringes on the rights of voters and will disproportionately disenfranchise people of color.

The first lawsuit challenging SB 202 was filed the same day Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law. Others soon followed, including one brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The state officials named as well as Republican groups that joined the suits as defendants filed motions to dismiss.

Boulee said that since they mostly involve the same defendants, facts and legal issues, he may consolidate them, at least for discovery purposes.

Boulee rejected arguments that the plaintiffs didn't have the right to sue, hadn't stated any particular harm suffered or hadn't justified the relief they're seeking.

"This is a huge step in our fight to protect voting rights for Georgians and voters across the country," Marc Elias said in an email. The prominent Democratic attorney filed the first suit in Georgia and is challenging GOP-backed election laws in other states.

Most of the lawsuits allege the new law is in violation of the Voting Rights Act by restricting the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes, restricting the use of provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong precinct, banning the handing out of food and water to people waiting in line to vote, among other things.

State officials vowed to keep fighting.

"We look forward to continuing to vigorously defend Georgia's commonsense election law," Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Chris Carr, said in an email.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.