Law & the Courts

Georgia Secretary of State Says Brnovich Decision ‘Vindicated’ State’s Voting Law

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Ga., November 6, 2020. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

In the estimation of Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, the Supreme Court’s judgment in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee has “vindicated Georgia election law.”

The Brnovich decision, reached by a 6-3 conservative majority, ruled that an Arizona law banning the practice of ballot harvesting and requiring that voters cast their ballot at their assigned precinct did not violate the Voting Rights Act.

It came as welcome news for Raffensperger, whose state’s recently passed election law, SB 202, is the target of a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit under the same statute announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland last week.

“We know that SB 202 will also be affirmed, if it gets to the Supreme Court,” Raffensperger told National Review.

SB 202 requires that voters who show up to the wrong precinct before 5p.m. be directed to the correct one. If they show up after that time, they may choose to cast a provisional ballot at the one they’ve already arrived at. Arizona’s law — held up as lawful by the Supreme Court — states that votes cast at the wrong precinct must be thrown out.

The DOJ, seemingly reading the tea leaves of the decision, issued the following statement:

The Attorney General has made clear, ‘the Department of Justice will never stop working to protect the democracy to which all Americans are entitled.’ The department remains strongly committed to challenging discriminatory election laws and will continue to use every legal tool available to protect all qualified Americans seeking to participate in the electoral process. The department urges Congress to enact additional legislation to provide more effective protection for every American’s right to vote.

The DOJ suit was brought after months of sustained attacks on the law by elected Democrats, who have likened it to “Jim Crow” and argued that the state Republicans who drafted the law intended to disenfranchise black voters.

Raffensperger took note of another sign that Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Brnovich bodes well for defenders of Georgia election law.

“One of the things that Attorney General Garland said was that there was this legislative intent, so he already’s been cut off at the knees and we haven’t even gotten to court yet,” he said.

Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion asserted that what mattered in voting rights cases was not legislative intent, but the actual words on the page and their practical effect.

And on that front, Raffensperger contends, there’s no real argument to be made against SB 202, which is something he says he would have explained to MLB before the league decided to move their All Star Game out of Atlanta to protest the law. MLB representatives never contacted state Republicans as the law was being drafted. The governor and the state legislature only found out about their opposition to the law when they announced their boycott, state leaders previously told National Review.

“If they had asked me and called me before they moved the MLB All-Star Game out and said ‘Brad, what does this bill really do?’ I could have sat down and said ‘this is what it really does, this is how we got here.’ And they would have said ‘Oh, this sounds really reasonable. I see why you did that,'” he said.

He also pushed back on Justice Elena Kagan’s dissenting opinion, which insists that there are ongoing voter suppression efforts at work, and claims that “two [recently passed] laws even ban handing out food or water to voters standing in line” appearing to refer to SB 202.

The law, which was inspired by similar legislation in New York, bans partisans from appealing to voters with food and drinks while they’re standing in line, but does not interfere with the ability of poll workers to provide refreshments.

“Campaigns were encroaching in that 150 foot no campaigning zone — no politicking — and they were trying to get their last plug in for their candidate. Which is first of all politicking, but also it can lead to voter coercion,” he said.

He added that Georgia has also taken steps to reduce line sizes and hold counties accountable so as to prevent the extension of the no-politicking rule from having any deleterious consequences.

Raffensperger lamented that Stacey Abrams’s “poll-tested” voter suppression narrative had “filtered into one of the Supreme Court justices'” views.

Of the fight to come, Raffensperger sounded confident.

“I look forward to meeting them and beating them,” he said.

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