Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A federal judge in Georgia has declined to block several provisions of a sweeping election law while multiple legal challenges play out.
Several left-wing advocacy and civil rights groups, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ, sued in 2021 after Republican state lawmakers passed the measure amid claims about election fraud in the state in 2020. Those lawsuits claim that black voters are now denied equal access to voting, which violates the Voting Rights Act.
“Plaintiffs have not shown, at least at this stage of the proceedings, that any of the provisions have a disparate impact on black voters,” U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee wrote in an order issued Wednesday. The jurist also wrote that the court “cannot find that Plaintiffs have presented enough evidence to show that the Legislature foresaw or knew that S.B. 202 would have a disparate impact on minority voters.”
The Biden administration and the Democrat-affiliated groups also “failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits as to their claims that the provisions” of the election law "intentionally discriminate against black voters in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Fifteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the [Voting Rights Act]," the judge ruled.
The plaintiffs, in their lawsuit, sought to prevent the law's enforcement pertaining to drop boxes as well as the distribution of food, water, and other gifts to voters who are waiting at polling locations. The law also set a deadline to submit applications for absentee ballots, among other measures.
Another section of the law says that provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct cannot be counted if they are case prior to 5 p.m. on Election Day. The final provision requires that a voter provide their driver’s license or state identification card number when requesting an absentee ballot.
In response, the plaintiffs said they were disappointed in Judge Boulee's decision, with reports suggesting that the challenged provisions will remain intact during the 2024 election cycle. Georgia was a key battleground state during the 2020 election and during the January 2021 runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats.
“The fight for voting rights in the South has never been easy, especially for Black voters. We will never stop advocating on behalf of our clients and voters across the state. We look forward to presenting our case at trial,” Rahul Garabadu, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, said in a statement.
And Alaizah Koorji, assistant counsel at the Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs, claimed that the law will continue to present barriers to black voters, alleging they are "designed to dilute Black political power."
The judge, however, said that the differences that were shown by the civil rights groups' lawyers in the election case were not "statistically significant enough to demonstrate that black voters wait in longer lines at a meaningfully higher rate than white voters."
In rejecting the claims that absentee ballots violate the Voting Rights Act, the judge wrote, "Without more, generalized evidence regarding the use of absentee voting is not sufficient to show that this particular provision, pertaining to one aspect of absentee voting, is discriminatory."
He added that the plaintiffs also didn't provide evidence suggesting that registered black voters could not obtain a state-issued identification card or driver's license at a higher rate than white voters.
Some Democratic lawmakers, the judge wrote, were also in favor of several of the law's provisions that required more election workers and equipment to be made available if a line occurs at a polling location on Election day. During the 2020 election, there were reports of lengthy lines at a number of precincts across Georgia, pushing the time back beyond the closing time to vote in-person.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger hailed the judge's ruling in a news release, saying that "the court confirmed what we’ve been saying all along." The release added that the law “strengthens election integrity while increasing the opportunity for Georgia voters to cast a ballot.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature in Georgia passed the law in March 2021 before it was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, weeks later.
The bill and law drew a wave of corporate backlash, which included Georgia-based firms like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines. For example, Delta's CEO, Ed Bastian, claimed at the time that the law is "unacceptable" and "based on a lie," drawing backlash from Mr. Kemp and other Republicans.
“Mr. Bastian should compare voting laws in Georgia—which include no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration, 17 days of early voting with an additional two optional Sundays, and automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license—with other states Delta Airlines operates in,” Mr. Kemp told CNBC more than two years ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.