Do Georgia voter challenges amount to intimidation? Judge to decide
Published in News & Features
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — A federal judge questioned Wednesday whether sweeping challenges to the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters amounted to voter intimidation by Texas-based True the Vote, a conservative organization that has promoted unproven claims of election fraud.
But an attorney for True the Vote responded that Georgia laws allow residents to cast doubt on individuals who might have moved away, and the group didn’t confront or discourage anyone from casting a ballot.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones is considering whether True the Vote’s effort to challenge 364,000 voters before Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs in early 2021 went too far. He didn’t immediately rule following a court hearing in Gainesville.
County election officials threw out almost all the challenges, but the lawsuit alleges that mass challenges amounted to a violation of the Voting Rights Act’s protections against voter intimidation and coercion. The case was brought by several voters and Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams.
True the Vote had said it recruited former Navy SEALS to monitor polling places, and the group offered a $1 million bounty to defend fraud whistleblowers if they were sued.
“This is objectively intimidating. Some voters will opt not to jump through these hoops and will not have the resources to overcome these challenges,” said Uzoma Nkwonta, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Challenges to voter eligibility were based in part on information from change-of-address lists, which can indicate when someone has moved but also includes names of Georgia residents who temporarily relocated, such as members of the military and college students.
For example, Gamaliel Turner was working in California as a military contractor when his residency in Muscogee County was challenged before the U.S. Senate runoffs, even though he was still a Georgia homeowner and taxpayer.
Jim Bopp, an attorney for True the Vote, said the organization was using its First Amendment right to petition the government under Georgia laws that allow voter challenges. After the U.S. Senate runoffs, the General Assembly expanded the voter challenge law, making it clear that Georgians could contest the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters.
Bopp said no voters were threatened by the defendants, and all of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were ultimately able to overcome challenges and cast their ballots.
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