Civil rights groups sued Georgia after it passed legislation they say restricts voting following the 2020 general election and two Senate runoff contests earlier this year that were won by the Democrats. Photo by Tami Chappell/UPI | License Photo
March 31 (UPI) -- Several civil rights groups sued the state of Georgia over voting legislation enacted last week they say makes it harder for Georgians of color to vote.
The lawsuit -- filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center and several law firms -- accuses the state of enacting a law that violates the Voting Rights Act as well as three amendments of the Constitution by creating restrictions to voting.
Last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law legislation earlier approved by both the state's Senate and House to narrow identification requirements for absentee ballot requests, limit secure drop boxes, reduce early voting in runoff elections and criminalize "line warming," which is when volunteers give water and snacks to those waiting in line to vote.
"This law is driven by blatant racism, represents politics at its very worst and is clearly illegal," Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. "We urge the court to act swiftly to strike it down."
The legislation S.B. 202 was proposed after record numbers of voters turned out for both the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 runoff elections for two Senate seats with the Democrats winning all three contests.
Opponents to the bill, including President Joe Biden, have compared it to Jim Crow-era laws with the purpose to limit Black Georgians' ability to vote after they turned out to the polls in record numbers.
The lawsuit states that while the provisions of S.B. 202 will make it harder for all Georgians to vote it will disproportionately affect voters of color as they lack ID or access to obtain one and use early and weekend voting as well as require access to secure drop boxes and rely on water and snack handouts during their long waits in voting lines.
"This burden is not an accident. Nor is it legal," the lawsuit states. "S.B. 202's challenged provisions deny voters of color a full and equal opportunity to participate in the political process."
The civil rights groups argue that each of the provisions makes it more difficult for "historically disenfranchised communities" to vote, as the restrictions on absentee voting, limit to drop boxes and shortening the timeframe for early voting will force more people into already long lines on election day where volunteers will be barred from offering them food and water.
Kemp, a Republican, defended the bill after it was passed saying via Twitter that "[t]here's nothing 'Jim Crow' about requiring voter ID to submit an absentee ballot" and that those who argue against it haven't read it.
"Georgia's Election Integrity Act that I signed into law expands early voting and secures our vote-by-mail system to protect the integrity of our elections," he said in a second tweet.
In a statement on Friday, Biden called the law "un-American" and "a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience."
"This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century," he said. "It must end."