A federal judge ruled Friday against a voting rights group founded by Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in a challenge to the state’s voting laws.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled against “fair fight action” on claims about Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration policy, absentee ballot cancellation practices, and inaccuracies in the registry.
“Although Georgia’s electoral system is not perfect, the contested practices do not violate either the constitution or the VRA (Voting Rights Act). As the Eleventh Circuit points out, the federal courts are not “the arbiter[s] of the controversies that arise in the elections; it’s [is] it is not the role of the federal court to ‘supervise the administrative details of a local election,’” Jones wrote in the ruling.
Fair Fight filed the lawsuit just after the 2018 gubernatorial election and the case went to trial earlier this year. Fair Fight says this was the longest voting rights trial in the Eleventh Circuit.
“Despite the many significant gains in favor of voters that have already resulted from this case, we are disappointed in the Court’s decision. In this time of frustration, we are also here to remind the nation: Litigation is just one tool to fight voter suppression,” Fair Fight Action Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid said in a statement.
“Today’s Court ruling is indeed a significant loss to the voting community in Georgia and across the country. However, it does not undermine the tireless work that Fair Fight Action and our allies continue to support Georgia voters and mitigate the obstacles they face in making their voices heard at the polls.”
Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who is running for re-election, accused Abrams of trying to make money from the lawsuit and throwing the electoral process into question. Kemp defeated Abrams in the 2018 gubernatorial race.
“Stacey Abrams and her organization lost in court, on all counts. From day one, Abrams has used this lawsuit to line his pockets, sow unrest in our democratic institutions, and build her own celebrity,” Kemp said in a statement.
“Judge Jones’s ruling exposes this legal effort for what it really is: a tool wielded by a politician hoping to misguidedly weaponize the legal system to further his own political goals. In Georgia, it’s easy to vote and it’s hard to cheat, and I’m going to keep working to keep it that way.”
Abrams said she will work to expand voting rights if she is elected governor.
“As governor, I will expand the right to vote. I will stand up for minority voters, not lament their increased power or be ‘frustrated’ by their success. This case demonstrates that the 2022 election will be a referendum on how our state treats its most marginalized voices,” Abrams said in a tweet.
The ruling follows President Joe Biden’s narrow margin of victory in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. Biden carried the state by fewer than 12,000 votes out of some 5 million cast.
It also comes as Georgia prepares to vote in one of the main battles for the US Senate. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is running against former NFL star Herschel Walker, a Republican, whose result could determine which party controls the chamber next year.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called the ruling a victory for election officials, saying the state’s elections have always been “safe and accessible.”
“Stacey Abrams’ stolen election and voter suppression claims were nothing more than poll-proven rhetoric that is unsupported by facts and evidence,” Raffensperger said in a statement.