Federal Judge Thwarts GOP Voter Suppression Scheme


On Thursday, federal Judge James Randal Hall rejected a lawsuit from Georgia Republicans who challenged electoral procedures in the state ahead of Election Day for Georgia’s ongoing Senate run-off races. In the lawsuit, the Republican plaintiffs wanted “to block the use of drop-boxes for submitting absentee ballots, roll back signature review guidance and prevent county election administrators from opening ballots until Election Day,” POLITICO explains. Hall concluded that Election Day was too close to appropriately allow for the significant changes that plaintiffs wanted.

Early in-person voting opened in Georgia on Monday, and overall, over 914,000 Georgians have already cast their ballots in the state’s Senate elections. Judge Hall, who concluded that plaintiffs didn’t have the legal standing to bring their case but said that he wouldn’t have granted their requests even if they did have standing, commented as follows:

‘We are not on the eve of an election. We are, as this relates to this particular election, we are closing in on halftime. Absentee ballots have already been printed and mailed, and in some cases returned… These plaintiffs are asking me to do what the Supreme Court, and our Eleventh Circuit, have cautioned against… I am not willing to go there.’

In the aftermath of Election Day for the general election, Trump allies have feverishly complained about an update to the signature verification process for mail-in ballots in Georgia. The update demands that two out of three election officials conclude that a submitted signature doesn’t match one on file for a particular voter before setting the ballot aside. Trump has claimed that signature verification for mail-in ballots hasn’t even occurred in the state, but that’s simply untrue. Every single mail-in ballot underwent signature verification — meaningful re-checks of actual ballots (as opposed to envelopes, which contain the signatures, on their own) are impossible because election workers separated ballots and envelopes after initial signature verification.

In a separate lawsuit that Georgia’s two Republican Senators support, plaintiffs seek to change the procedure to demanding that only one out of three officials needs to conclude that a signature doesn’t match before setting a given ballot aside. This change could result in an increased number of unfairly disqualified ballots. Although voters would have the chance to “cure” (meaning fix) signature-related issues with their ballot under both the currently in-place system and the system proposed by the plaintiffs in this other lawsuit, what if voters miss the notification from authorities that there’s an issue to fix in the first place? What if that notification comes without enough time before Election Day to allow a reasonable opportunity for some working class voters to fix the issues?

With a documented significant reliance on mail-in/ absentee voting among Democratic voters, changes to mail-in voting procedures in Georgia or elsewhere could disproportionately negatively impact Democratic voters.

The false claims of systematic fraud that Trump and his allies have presented in the aftermath of the general election could give certain Republican officials the cover to implement new impediments to voting under the deceptive guise of securing elections against a threat — systematic fraud — that currently doesn’t even plague the U.S. electoral system.