Georgia may have illegally purged nearly 200,000 citizens from its voting rolls before the 2020 election, and a lawsuit filed Dec. 2 by civil rights group Black Voters Matter seeks an injunction that would allow these voters to participate in the state’s high-stakes Senate runoff elections in January. Georgians must be registered by Dec. 7 in order to vote in the Jan. 5 elections, and early voting begins on Dec. 14.
Black Voters Matter claims Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wrongfully removed over 198,000 people from the voter rolls based on the false claim that they no longer lived where they were registered to vote: “It is imperative that the State of Georgia take steps to ensure that the voter rolls are accurate and citizens who wrongly had their registrations cancelled are restored to the rolls so they may be allowed to vote in the upcoming run-off elections,” the complaint states.
The suit was filed amid attempts by Donald Trump to overturn the results of the November election based on false claims that voter fraud resulted in him losing states such as Georgia. These claims have been rejected by multiple courts and multiple Trump administration officials, including, most recently, Attorney General William Barr.
“What has happened in the state of Georgia is not voter fraud, it is voter suppression,” said LaTosha Brown, a plaintiff in the case and the founder of Black Voters Matter, in a press conference held hours after the suit was filed. “We literally are not seeing the same kind of traction around people being really upset and disturbed by this.”
The alleged voter suppression targeted people of color and is part of a large scale “Jim Crow” operation by the GOP to counter unfavorable demographic shifts, argues investigative journalist Greg Palast, who described the voting roll purge in a report published with ACLU Georgia in September.
“The only way they can win Georgia” is through voter suppression, Palast said in an interview with The Real News earlier this year.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams says the GOP’s recent voter suppression efforts backfired, leading to the high voter turnout in November’s election that helped Joe Biden become the first Democrat to win the state since 1992. “That fight is what I think helped make the difference, because voters who wanted to be heard had the ability this time to actually make it through the gauntlet, get to the ballot box, and cast their votes,” she told The View.
In Georgia, like the rest of the United States, Black voters overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. The upcoming Georgia election—which remains virtually tied, according to polls—will determine if Republicans keep their majority in the Senate. If Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock can defeat the two Republican incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, splitting the Senate 50-50, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes in Democrats’ favor. But if Republicans retain control they can obstruct the Biden administration from delivering on its campaign promises.
The Black Voters Matter lawsuit was filed the same day Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, said multiple investigations in Georgia have found no evidence of widespread fraud, as alleged by Trump. Last week, Trump called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people,” for not overturning the results of the election. Raffensperger has earned some praise for rejecting pressure to throw out mail-in ballots, which overwhelmingly skewed Democratic, 849,000 for Biden to 451,000 for Trump. Meanwhile, Raffensperger says officials in Georgia are investigating whether voting rights groups registered dead people to vote, but hasn’t commented on the lawsuit. Election official Gabriel Sterling all but dismissed the allegations as baseless.
“There’s nothing more reprehensible than when a state operates in a sloppy manner, or purposefully sets out to block voters who have the right to vote,” said Barbara Arnwine, a plaintiff in the case and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition during the press conference. “Georgia has been not only Ground Zero [for voter suppression] it has been a national disgrace by failing to uphold the rights of voters to have access to the ballot box.”