Georgia Law Restricting Distribution of Absentee Ballot Applications to Stay in Place Pending Developments
Atlanta, GA – In a blow to Georgia voters and the civic engagement groups who support them, a district court ruled yesterday to keep burdensome restrictions on the distribution of absentee ballot applications in place pending further developments.
Campaign Legal Center (CLC) brought the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on behalf of VoteAmerica, the Voter Participation Center and Center for Voter Information. The lawsuit challenges provisions of Georgia’s S.B. 202 that violate the groups’ First Amendment right to persuade and assist Georgia voters to participate in elections by distributing absentee ballot applications. In the 2020 election cycle alone, these civic organizations’ encouragement and assistance enabled over half a million Georgia voters to participate through absentee voting securely and conveniently. Georgia seeks to restrict those successful efforts, reducing voters’ access to our democracy.
Early in June, CLC attorneys went to court to argue that the restrictions on distributing absentee ballot applications should be blocked from going into effect while the case proceeds to trial. This would have allowed civic engagement groups to utilize their most effective methods of communicating their pro-voting and pro-absentee mail voting messages ahead of the 2022 general election. Since the request was denied, the restrictive and unconstitutional law will remain in effect pending further developments.
“This decision muffles the voices of nonpartisan organizations seeking to engage vulnerable communities in our political process,” said Danielle Lang, senior director of voting rights at Campaign Legal Center. “Our elections should be safe and accessible. Nonpartisan civic engagement groups help make that a reality by communicating with and assisting voters who want to cast an absentee ballot.”
"This decision severely limits VoteAmerica's ability to effectively communicate true and enfranchising information to Georgians," said Daniel McCarthy, Vice President of Operations for VoteAmerica. "Instead, we're being forced to provide confusing, inaccurate and false information to voters. This court’s decision to allow a state to compel civic engagement groups like ours to mislead Georgia's voters is not only disappointing, it's downright shameful.
“The decision by the court to allow S.B. 202 to go into effect in the 2022 elections is a major setback for Georgia’s voters and their access to vote by mail,” said Tom Lopach, president and CEO of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Voter Participation Center (VPC) and Center for Voter Information (CVI). “But the fight is not over: we will keep pushing in court to strike down the dangerous provisions in S.B. 202 that would inhibit civic engagement groups from helping Georgians make their voices heard. At VPC and CVI, we’ll keep working to protect our democracy and ensure every American can access the ballot box.”
In March 2021, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed S.B. 202 into law. The omnibus measure makes numerous changes to Georgia’s election system, specifically targeting access to absentee voting. These changes to Georgia’s election code prohibit the Secretary of State, county election officials and other government officials from sending absentee voting applications directly to any voter unless the voter specifically requests one. The law then also significantly restricts civic organizations from distributing absentee voting applications to voters. Georgia enforces these restrictions on civic organizations by imposing steep civil penalties and threatening the risk of criminal prosecution for any individual violation.
Learn more about the lawsuit here.