WASHINGTON – Judicial challenges to Republican-led electoral restrictions in Georgia and elsewhere are facing an uncertain path in a legal system that has become more conservative in recent years.
The national legislation favored by the Democrats could counter some state restrictions, but even that is not safe in a narrowly divided Congress.
Groups opposed to the major overhaul of electoral law in Georgia filed a lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta Thursday, hours after Governor Brian Kemp signed the new law. They say restrictions on voting in person or by post, including the requirement that a voter ID is required to cast a postal vote, violate the constitutional rights of all Georgians and also disproportionately affect color voters in violation of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Georgian law was enacted less than three months after the state elected two Democrats to the Senate, who gave party control to the Chamber. In November, President Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 to run the state.
It’s part of a wave of GOP-backed electoral laws introduced in states across the country after former President Donald Trump made false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat. Georgia became a focus of the election and its aftermath with two recounts and ongoing investigations into whether Trump and his allies had acted illegally in their efforts to reverse the outcome.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia in 2018, wrote on Twitter that the new law signals “Republicans surrender to lies about the truth.” To fear fairness. To suppress over participation. “
Jason Snead, a conservative proponent of the law, called it “a pretty reasonable set of proposals” that “will continue the tradition of making it easy to choose and difficult to cheat”.
Richard Hasen, an electoral law expert at the University of California’s Irvine Law School, said the outcome was difficult to predict. “Many of the things the bill does are in line with what other states are already doing. Hence, the question arises whether restricting voting rights for bad purposes is illegal, even if the restriction does not go as far as some other states (or Georgia has considered that), ”Hasen wrote in an email.
Courts have made it more difficult to prove willful racial discrimination, and “Partisan intent, even if it intersects with race, cannot be enough,” Hasen said.
State and federal courts, including Trump-appointed judges, largely dismissed lawsuits by the former president and his supporters against the election results.
But Republican-led states have done better in federal courts on other electoral issues, particularly in a ruling last year that forced Florida criminals to pay fines and fees before regaining their right to vote.
In this case, the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals split on an ideological basis, with five Trump candidates in the majority among the six Conservatives. The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit includes Georgia, and the same court would handle any appeal against a court ruling.
The Supreme Court, with three Trump candidates in a Conservative majority of 6 to 3, would likely have the final say on contesting restrictions in Georgia and elsewhere.
The judges’ pending decision on an Arizona proxy case that collects ballots and casts votes in the wrong counties – two areas also governed by Georgian law – could also affect the outcome of the Georgia lawsuit, especially if that is Court a survivor watered down provision of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination.
“The fate of this lawsuit could really affect what we learn from the Supreme Court this spring,” said Deborah Pearlstein, professor of constitutional law at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School in New York. A decision in the Arizona case is expected in late June.
The last major ruling by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act was in 2013, when the court effectively gutted a key provision that forced states and local governments with a history of discrimination to seek approval before making any changes related to elections.
The cumulative effect of the 2013 decision and the follow-up action taken by states is to “genuinely enable states that are interested in restricting voting to do so, with the greater hope that they will be able to exercise legal Challenges to survive, “said Pearlstein.
Congress could render the court battle virtually meaningless if it passed democratic proposals that would, among other things, overcome the voting hurdles and revive the pre-approval portion of the proxy bill.
“The Constitution gives Congress far-reaching powers to set the rules for running federal elections,” Hasen said, and constitutional amendments that extended voting to black Americans, women, and 18-year-olds give more authority to protect voting rights.
Democrats would almost certainly have to change Senate rules to get the legislation approved based on the groundbreaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Lawsuits would surely follow, Snead said, though he conceded some regulations, including the lifting of state voter ID requirements, were likely to survive.
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