January 28, 2019; Associated Press
Last year, the state of Georgia endured an intense and hard-fought gubernatorial race between Brian Kemp, former Georgia Secretary of State, and Stacey Abrams, former House Minority Leader and the first Black woman to become a major party’s nominee for governor in the US. The election ended with Kemp becoming governor, but not because Abrams didn’t put up a fight. Her campaign brought attention to an issue that many mistakenly had thought was resolved—voter suppression.
As NPQ reported, “Stacey Abrams is emerging from the Georgia governor’s race with a strong reputation and a promise to fight for voter rights.” Abrams has launched a new nonprofit, Fair Fight Georgia, a political action committee which will “pursue accountability in Georgia’s elections and integrity in the process of maintaining our voting rolls.” Its first action was to file suit against the state of Georgia to challenge the legitimacy of the 2018 midterm election and protect against such future actions. The lawsuit alleges that Kemp “grossly mismanaged” the election by failing to provide enough voting machines, ensure that they were functioning correctly and advise local election officials to prepare for high turnout. It seeks major reforms and asks that Georgia be required to get a federal judge’s approval before enacting any voting rules to ensure that changes wouldn’t disenfranchise people of color—basically restoring the “preclearance” rules that had existed prior to the US Supreme Court’s action to vitiate the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder.
Last Monday, Georgia election officials asked a judge to toss out the lawsuit, stating that the lawsuit fails to present valid claims and that “state officials are not responsible for any of the harm alleged and are immune from such suits.” The state lawyers wrote, “Their candidate having lost the election, Plaintiffs now seek to litigate the consequences of the 2018 election not in the elected branches of state government, but in this federal court. Put simply, Plaintiffs seek to enact their preferred policies not through state government or the legislature, but through the federal judiciary.”
The state lawyers argue that the organizations fail to provide any specific examples of harm done to themselves and therefore do not have the standing to make said claims. They also argue that state election officials are improperly named in the suit although problems at the polls are typically handled by county election officials.
The state lawyers counter that the lawsuit aims to advance Fair Fight Georgia’s platform, stating that, “Plaintiffs announced their lawsuit with great fanfare and have utilized its existence as a way to advance their organizational interests in the press.” For their part, Fair Fight Georgia and Stacey Abrams claim a greater mission: to end voter suppression and ensure a “fair fight” regardless of race or class. As Truthout’s Greg Palast stated, “Yes, Abrams is the first African American woman nominated for governor by the Democratic Party. More revolutionary is that she is the first Democratic candidate to demand an end to racist ethnic cleansing of the voter rolls.”
Let’s hope that the judicial system sees the injustices presented in the lawsuit, even if the state lawyers do not.—Diandria Barber