By Pamela Kirkland and Eva McKend, CNN
A federal judge ruled against a voting rights group founded by Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams Friday in a challenge to the state’s voting laws.
US District Judge Steve Jones ruled against “Fair Fight Action” on claims over Georgia’s “exact match” voter registration policy, absentee ballot cancellation practices and registration inaccuracies.
“Although Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the VRA (Voting Rights Act). As the Eleventh Circuit notes, federal courts are not “the arbiter[s] of disputes’ which arise in elections; it [is] not the federal court’s role to ‘oversee 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 on the Eleventh Circuit.
“Despite the numerous and significant pro-voter developments that have already resulted from this case, we are nonetheless disappointed by the Court’s decision. In this moment of frustration, we also are here to remind the nation: Litigation is only one tool to fight against voter suppression,” Fair Fight Action Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid said in a statement.
“The Court’s ruling today is no doubt a significant loss for the voting rights community in Georgia and across the country. However, it does not undermine the tireless work that Fair Fight Action and our allies continue to undertake to support Georgia voters and mitigate the obstacles they face to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who is running for reelection, accused Abrams of trying to make money off the suit and cast doubt on the electoral process. Kemp defeated Abrams in the 2018 governor’s race.
“Stacey Abrams and her organization lost in court — on all counts. From day one, Abrams has used this lawsuit to line her pockets, sow distrust in our democratic institutions, and build her own celebrity,” Kemp said in a statement.
“Judge Jones’ ruling exposes this legal effort for what it really is: a tool wielded by a politician hoping to wrongfully weaponize the legal system to further her own political goals. In Georgia, it is easy to vote and hard to cheat — and I’m going to continue working to keep it that way.”
Abrams said she will work to expand the right to vote if elected governor.
“As governor, I will expand the right to vote. I will defend minority voters, not bemoan their increased power or grow ‘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 won 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 marquee battles for the US Senate. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is running against former NFL star, Herschel Walker, a Republican, the outcome of which could determine which party controls the chamber next year.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called the ruling a win for elections officials, saying the state’s elections have always been “safe, secure, and accessible.”
“Stolen election and voter suppression claims by Stacey Abrams were nothing but poll-tested rhetoric not supported by facts and evidence,” Raffensperger said in a statement.
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