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A federal judge has upheld several parts of a voter integrity law that was passed in Georgia.
Judge J.P. Boulee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia upheld the parts of Georgia’s Election Integrity Law challenged by an organization that sends prospective voters prefilled absentee ballot applications.
VoteAmerica sued Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to strike down portions of the bill that added requirements for organizations or individuals that mail prefilled absentee ballot applications to potential voters.
The bill, Georgia SB 202, was signed into law in May 2021 by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. It includes three provisions that apply additional restrictions to such ballot applications.
Under the law, third-party organizations are prohibited from sending absentee ballot applications prefilled with the prospective voter’s required information. They are also prohibited from sending applications to prospective voters who have already requested an absentee ballot.
Further, the absentee ballot applications must include the following disclaimer printed on the front of the form: “This is NOT an official government publication and was NOT provided to you by any governmental entity and this is NOT a ballot. It is being distributed by [insert name and address of person, organization, or other entity distributing such document or material].”
The court sided with Raffensperger and the RNC, holding that the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights were not violated, and they did not meet the standard to obtain an injunction striking down the law.
“Further, this Court finds that combining speech (in the cover information) with the conduct of sending an application form, as Plaintiffs do here, is not sufficient to transform the act of sending the application forms into protected speech,” the court wrote. “Plaintiffs’ pro-absentee voting message is not necessarily intrinsic to the act of sending prospective voters an application form.”
The court added that the state’s disclaimer “simply presents information designed to reduce voter confusion regarding absentee ballot applications provided by third parties and to relieve election officials of the administrative burdens resulting from such confusion.”
“Third parties who may not be aware of these proceedings are presumably already preparing to distribute ballot application forms bearing the current Disclaimer. A ruling requiring a different disclaimer could cause two different application forms to be in circulation,” the judge wrote. “Prospective voters who receive both versions of the form could be confused by the conflicting statements. The Court is also mindful of unintended consequences of late-breaking changes to the law.”
Another loss by Democrats in the Federal Courts. https://t.co/CKlAYanlik
— Cred (@red_hursh) July 1, 2022
Lawsuits similar to this one are popping up all over the country just months before November’s crucial midterm elections.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers in North Carolina and ruled they can intervene to defend the state’s voter ID law from lawsuits.
Republican lawmakers accused the state’s Democratic Attorney General John Stein is not properly defending the law from legal challenges brought by the NAACP and other groups who claim it violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court made it easier for legislators to step in when other state officials decline to back election-related state statutes in court or are perceived as offering only lackluster support.
“Casting aspersions on no one, this litigation illustrates how divided state governments sometimes warrant participation by multiple state officials in federal court,” Justice Neil Gorsuch, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote for the majority.
The ruling comes in a long-running dispute in North Carolina over a 2018 state law that would require a photo ID to vote.