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Attorney General Ellison opposes Georgia's discriminatory voting law in court

Joins coalition of 22 AGs in pushing back on efforts to dismiss Biden Administration lawsuit against Georgia’s law; calls for lawsuit to move forward

 

August 17, 2021



August 16, 2021 [SAINT PAUL] – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a coalition of 22 attorneys general from across the country in opposing Georgia’s discriminatory law that would make it more difficult for millions of Georgians – especially Black Georgians – to vote. They specifically pushed back against misguided efforts to dismiss the suit against Georgia at this threshold stage.

In an amicus brief filed in U.S. district court in the Northern District of Georgia in United States v. Georgia, Attorney General Ellison and the national coalition explain why the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) sufficiently stated a claim that Georgia intentionally discriminated against Black and minority voters and that the case should proceed to trial. The brief also suggests that Georgia’s purported reason for adopting the law – to prevent voter fraud – does not hold up under scrutiny and is really about hobbling the voting power of Black Georgians.

“Full access to voting is essential for every Minnesotan and every American to live with dignity and respect. There can no room in our democracy for suppressing this fundamental human right. I will use all the tools of my office to protect it and ensure the voice of every American who is eligible to vote is heard and counted at the ballot box, in Minnesota and every state,” Attorney General Ellison said.

According to a July 2021 report from the Brennan Center for Justice, during the 2021 legislative sessions, more than 400 bills with provisions that restrict voting access were introduced in 49 states. More dangerously, the report also points out that at least 18 states passed and enacted 30 restrictive laws making vote-by-mail and early voting more difficult, putting in place harsher voter ID requirements, and making voter purges more likely, among other restrictive actions.

The coalition of attorneys general are specifically urging the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to allow the case to move forward because:

• The federal government’s complaint properly alleges that Georgia intended to discriminate against Black and minority voters. The Supreme Court has long held that to prove discrimination, a plaintiff does not need to show direct evidence of discriminatory intent. Rather, bedrock civil rights law makes clear that parties can prove intentional discrimination by pointing to circumstantial facts and context that suggest an impermissible motive – including the political incentives and wider racial dynamics underlying an enactment. At this early stage in the case, plausible allegations of intent are enough to warrant the case moving forward. Given the overwhelming evidence demonstrating that Georgia enacted these laws in response to the results of the 2020 election – where record Black turnout unseated two Senate Republicans and delivered Georgia to a Democratic President for the first time in nearly 20 years – the DOJ has clearly met the necessary evidentiary burden for this case to proceed.

• Georgia’s supposed reason for passing the law is contrived and does not hold up under scrutiny. While Georgia has the authority and discretion to enact some laws that improve “election security” and “voter confidence,” states cannot invoke those interests as pretext for impairing the opportunities of vulnerable voters. Other states have been able to achieve those exact same goals through policy decisions that expand voter access, while keeping the risk of voter fraud minimal. For example, the District of Columbia and other states like California, Nevada, and Vermont have enacted reforms that simultaneously expand access and promote election security. When a state suddenly claws back existing access for voters – particularly voters of color after an historic election – without any genuine need or evidentiary basis, courts should be skeptical that “election integrity” is the genuine reason for the reduction in voting opportunities.

Joining Attorney General Ellison on the amicus brief are District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the brief, and the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. A copy of the brief is available on New York Attorney General James’s website.

 

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