Law & the Courts

District Court Swats Away Private Georgia Election Bill Lawsuit

Voters line up to cast their ballots in the Senate run-off election, at a polling station in Marietta, Ga. January 5, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On Wednesday, District Court Judge J.P. Boulee denied a motion calling for a preliminary injunction against S.B. 202, the controversial Georgia election law passed earlier this year. It was filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, a  501(c)3 focused on “election transparency and verifiability” in a case against Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

The motion would have enjoined various provisions of the Georgia law, including the rule that an absentee-ballot application must be made “not earlier than 78 days or less than 11 days prior to the date of the primary or election, or runoff of either, in which the elector desires to vote,” as well as various provisions prohibiting election observers from intentionally observing whom individual voters cast their ballot for, or communicating that information among themselves. Plaintiffs argued that each of these parts of the bill violate either the Constitution or Voting Rights Act.

Judge Boulee laid out the framework he would use to make his decision:

A plaintiff seeking preliminary injunctive relief must show the following: 1) a substantial likelihood that he will ultimately prevail on the merits; (2) that he will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction issues; (3) that the threatened injury to the movant outweighs whatever damage the proposed injunction may cause to the opposing party; and (4) that the injunction, if issued, would not be adverse to the public interest.

He proceeded to note that a plaintiff must meet all four prerequisites — not one or some combination of two or three of them — to be granted relief.

According to Judge Boulee’s analysis, Coalition for Good Governance argued that the law might violate the First Amendment, but did not provide “authority . . . that would support this interpretation of the law.” Ultimately, he ruled that an injunction would be both contrary to the public interest, and cause more harm to election authorities than leaving the law untouched would to the plaintiffs.

Secretary Raffensperger provided the following statement to National Review:

“This is just another in the line of frivolous lawsuits against Georgia’s election law based on misinformation and lies. We will continue to meet them and beat them in court.”

The Department of Justice is also suing Georgia, alleging that S.B. 202 violates the Voting Rights Act. That lawsuit took a hit last week, when the Supreme Court upheld a similar Arizona law in a suit brought by the Democratic National Committee.

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