Civil rights groups sue Georgia over new voting law

An ACLU representative said the law was "blatant racism."

March 30, 2021, 5:37 PM

Civil rights groups on Tuesday said they have sued the state of Georgia over changes to voting laws enacted last week that they said make it harder for all Georgia residents to vote, particularly people of color.

In a joint press release Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and law firms in the state said that the law was a direct response to the 2020 presidential election and Senate runoff election, where the state had record voter turnout and Democrats won the state. The groups are suing in federal court on behalf of a church and other community groups.

"The elections were celebrated not just for their turnout, but also for their integrity, with Georgia officials praising them as safe and secure," the release said. "But rather than act to expand participation in the political process, Georgia leaders responded by doing what they have done many times in the state's history: they placed burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters, particularly voters of color and other historically disenfranchised communities."

Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, pinned the motives of the law on race.

"This law is driven by blatant racism, represents politics at its very worst, and is clearly illegal," Lakin said in the statement. "We urge the court to act swiftly to strike it down."

PHOTO: Ann White of Roswell holds protest signs on the North Wing stairs of the Georgia State Capitol building on day 38 of the legislative session in Atlanta, March 25, 2021.
Ann White of Roswell holds protest signs on the North Wing stairs of the Georgia State Capitol building on day 38 of the legislative session in Atlanta, March 25, 2021.
Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp defended the law from criticism last week, saying that critics -- including President Joe Biden -- hadn't read the law.

"This bill expands voting access, streamlines vote-counting procedures, and ensures election integrity," Kemp said in a tweeted statement. There is nothing 'Jim Crow' about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot -- every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person."

Biden called the law an "atrocity" when speaking to reporters last week. In a statement Friday, he likened it to "Jim Crow" laws and called on Congress to pass a Democratic-supported federal measure to protect voting rights.

"This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote," he said in the statement.

Prominent Georgia voting rights activist and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams released a statement about the law shortly after it was passed last week.

"Every business, political, and civic leader must stand up and make their opposition to these desperate anti-democratic laws clear," Abrams said. "At a time when Georgia ranks as the worst state for COVID vaccination rates, Georgia Republicans instead are singularly focused on reviving Georgia's dark past of racist voting laws."

ABC News' Quinn Scanlan contributed to this report.

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