Georgia Faith Leaders and Voting Rights Advocates File Lawsuit to Block Voter Suppression Law Targeting Black and Brown Voters
Coalition files complaint to block implementation of SB 202 in Georgia
ATLANTA, Ga - Today, a coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to block the implementation of Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s monster voter suppression law. The lawsuit, filed by Advancement Project National Office on behalf of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Concerned Black Clergy, Mijente, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Faith in Action and a coalition of churches, comes on the heels of a corporate accountability campaign spearheaded by Georgia’s faith community. The campaign aims to pressure Georgia businesses to condemn the new law.
“At its core, SB 202 is a discriminatory law intentionally aimed at reducing access to the ballot box and criminalizing voting,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project National Office. “It takes aim at the multi-racial coalition that made unprecedented change during the 2020 election and attempts to silence voters of color, seniors, students, the indigent, and Georgians with disabilities. The state of Georgia has tried to silence the engines of democracy—the Black church and Latinx civic engagement organizations. But our message is clear: ‘You have tried, and you have failed!”
In 2020, nearly five million Georgians cast a ballot in the November elections. The new complaint asserts that SB 202 is racially discriminatory in intentionally denying, diluting, and abridging the fundamental right to vote of Black and Brown Georgians. The plaintiffs also contend that the law’s criminalization of voter assistance activities like line warming violates the First Amendment rights—freedom of speech and freedom of expression—of faith communities and Georgians across the state.
“This law was conceived and brought forth on the bed of deception,” said Apostle Darryl Winston, Pastor of Greater Works Ministries. “This is immoral. It is rife with discriminatory measures aimed directly at Black and Brown communities where there was record voter turnout. This law also creates impediments on several fronts causing undue burdens for seniors and students to vote, as well criminalizing acts of compassion. We cannot forget that allegations of widespread voter fraud were debunked by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The legal complaint claims that SB 202 violates the fifteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it places a burden on the right to vote without a “relevant and legitimate state interest sufficiently weighty to justify the limitation.”
“Our voice and presence in this conversation is a direct result of the Big Lie that somehow the Democratic win in this state, and around this country, was the result of voter fraud. A lie that the governor himself successfully pushed back against and won,” said Bishop Carl McRae, Pastor of Exousia Lighthouse International Christian Ministries. “And, yet along with the assistance of Secretary of State Raffensberger, he reanimated that same lie to justify passing these mean-spirited and hate-filled laws designed to further marginalized the vote of Black and Brown people here in Georgia! It’s a nefarious attempt to fix a problem that does not exist.”
“This reinvention of legal measures to prevent Black and marginalized people from participating in the electoral process is a throwback to Jim Crow and the Black Codes. It is the fulfillment of a call made over 50 years ago to replace democracy with a "genetic meritocracy" because of the browning of America," declared Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc.
Civic engagement organizations detailed the way in which SB 202 would disenfranchise Latinx voters and reiterated their resolve to keep fighting in opposition to the new law.
"Voter suppression is a key tactic of the Republican party—a direct response to the decisive, statewide victories delivered by the people of Georgia for Democrats in both November and January,” said Tania Unzueta, Political Director of Mijente. “It is abundantly clear that SB 202 was written to intimidate voters of color and tamp down on the remarkable, dogged work of grassroots organizers who have pounded the pavement to educate, inform, and assist any eligible Georgian in casting their ballot. Whether we are offering water to folks standing in hours-long lines at the polling place or walking someone through the voter registration process, we will continue to build power in Latinx communities until everyone who is eligible to vote can do so easily and safely."
"As an organizer who has spent the last 15 years knocking on the doors of Latinos in every part of Georgia, I can tell you firsthand: this state has not made it easy for our communities to cast their votes,” said Adelina Nichols, Executive Director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “From polling places only offering materials in English to workplaces not offering time off to vote, to a fundamental lack of information about Election Day logistics, Latino voters are regularly disenfranchised. But the voter suppression included in SB 202 is even more egregious. There is no question in my mind: this law was designed to extinguish the progress made by decades of electoral organizing in Georgia's communities of color. Unfortunately for Governor Kemp, Latinx voters are not leaving, and we will fight tooth and nail to protect our sacred right to elect representatives who support our values.”
“Voting is a critical part of ensuring everyone has a say in the decisions that shape their lives,” said the Rev. Alvin Herring, Executive Director of Faith in Action. “Despite a pandemic, people in Georgia—especially Black and Brown voters—turned out to vote in record numbers. Our organizers on the ground heard from so many folks, particularly people who were previously incarcerated, who felt seen for the first time when they were asked to participate in our political system. And in response, Georgia's leaders are doing all they can to limit access to the ballot box. The lies they tell themselves in an attempt to justify their legislation are no different than the lies that led to the insurrectionist violence on January 6.”
“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” said Derrick Rice, Pastor of Sankofa United Church of Christ. “The first sermon Jesus preached following his baptism, framed his anointing by God to: proclaim good news to the poor and, among other things, to set oppressed people free – it also inspired Bishop Henry McNeal Turner to say before the racist Georgia legislature in 1868; ‘The Anglo-Saxon race, is a most surprising one… I was not aware that there was in the character of that race so much cowardice or so much pusillanimity.” Georgia legislators who supported the recent voter suppression law in 2021, seem to have in their ideological DNA, the same white supremacist way of thinking as the legislators who voted to expel it’s black members in 1868.”
Read the full complaint here.
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