ATLANTA — A federal judge has rejected motions to dismiss eight lawsuits challenging Georgia's sweeping new election law.
Georgia's law is one of many approved by Republican-led legislatures after former President Donald Trump and his allies pushed unfounded claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election. Democrats, voting rights groups and other critics say it infringes on the rights of voters and will disproportionately disenfranchise people of color.
State officials reject that criticism, saying Georgia's election laws are reasonable, don't discriminate and are in line with election laws around the country.
The first lawsuit challenging SB 202 was filed the same day Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law. Others soon followed, including one brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The state officials named as well as Republican groups that joined the suits as defendants filed motions to dismiss.
U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee, however, issued orders Thursday allowing all eight lawsuits to proceed, and said that since they mostly involve the same defendants, facts and legal issues, he may consolidate them, at least for discovery purposes.
Boulee, a Trump appointee, rejected arguments that the plaintiffs didn't have the right to sue, hadn't stated any particular harm suffered or hadn't justified the relief they're seeking.
"This is a huge step in our fight to protect voting rights for Georgians and voters across the country," Marc Elias said in an email. The prominent Democratic attorney filed the first suit in Georgia and is challenging GOP-backed election laws in other states.
Most of the lawsuits allege that the new law discriminates against voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act by imposing new identification requirements for absentee voting, shortening the time period for requesting absentee ballots, restricting the availability of absentee ballot drop boxes, restricting the use of provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong precinct, banning the handing out of food and water to people waiting in line to vote, among other things. One lawsuit challenges a new process for the State Election Board to remove county election officials, as well as other provisions it says violate free speech rights.
"Georgia's anti-voter law makes it harder to vote for Georgia's citizens of color and citizens with disabilities, and we look forward to continue to fight this law in court," American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia attorney Rahul Garabadu said by email.
State officials vowed to keep fighting.
"We look forward to continuing to vigorously defend Georgia's commonsense election law," Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Chris Carr, said in an email.