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SPLC, ACLU of Georgia File Amicus Brief on behalf of AME Church, Other Voting Rights Organizations in RNC Lawsuit Concerning Dropbox Hours in Runoff Elections

RNC, GA Republican Party filed anti-voter lawsuit against the State Election Board, SoS Raffensperger, and others

ATLANTA – Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and ACLU of Georgia, representing the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and other interested parties, filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Superior Court of Fulton County to safeguard voters’ safety and access to the ballot box in the pivotal January 5 runoff elections. Specifically, the amicus brief seeks to ensure that counties will continue to be permitted to accept absentee ballots at secure drop boxes outside regular business hours. 

A lawsuit filed on December 9 in the Superior Court of Fulton County by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Georgia Republican Party against Georgia election officials “threatens to restrict voters’ avenues for casting their ballots on the thinnest of legal and factual pretexts” and disrupt voters’ settled expectations for a fair and safe election, according to the amicus brief. 

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs request that emergency drop boxes be accessible only during regular business hours and that county registrars host on a livestream of their drop boxes’ surveillance videos on the Internet. 

Access to drop boxes outside of business hours gives Georgia voters, especially essential workers and voters with childcare obligations, increased flexibility to a safe voting method amidst an ever-worsening pandemic and holiday postal service delays, the brief argues. 

The brief also points out that a 24/7 Internet-available livestreaming of drop boxes poses a significant risk of increasing voter intimidation for the runoff elections. As demonstrated by the recounts and audit in Georgia’s general election, online agitators and conspiracy theorists can use out of context footage of routine and legal activities to harass elections officials who have done nothing wrong. The brief requests the court not enable additional harassment of officials who staff or voters who use these drop boxes. 

Amici in today’s brief include the AME Church, the Latino Community Fund (LCF) and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). 

“No one should be trying to restrict access to safe and reliable voting options in the middle of a pandemic,” said Bishop Reginald Jackson, who supervises over 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia. “The AME Church has never hesitated to stand up for its congregants when their civil liberties are being threatened.”

“The pandemic began in the United States almost a year ago, and the rules of the runoff elections have been set for a while,” said Poy Winichakul, staff attorney for the SPLC. “Unfortunately, this litigation is another last-minute attempt to impose two extremely anti-voter election changes just three weeks before the January 5 runoff. Our brief asks the court to safeguard the voting rights of all Georgians by rejecting the plaintiffs’ outrageous requests.”  

“Politicians should be protecting the fundamental right to vote, especially in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Andrés López-Delgado, staff attorney for the ACLU of Georgia. “Georgians deserve safe and secure access to the ballot box.”
 
 “Drop boxes available during extended hours allow hard-working Georgian citizens to exercise their right to vote after or before their work shifts in a safe and secure manner,” said Gigi Pedraza, Executive Director at LCF Georgia. “Thousands of Georgians are already voting and drop boxes are part of their plans to exercise their voting rights in a safe and secure manner aligned with COVID-19 recommendations.”
 
“Black Immigrants, both citizens and non-citizens, place critical importance on the right to vote and Black electoral power. We are pleased to stand with our African American siblings in the tradition of freedom warriors, Fannie Lou Hamer and Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), to fight against these latest attempts of voter suppression,” said Lovette Kargbo Thompson, Atlanta Organizer for the BAJI. “Extended voting hours are critical to Black essential workers who don't have the luxury to leave their jobs and drop off ballots during regular voting hours. Black Georgians are disproportionately impacted by COVID19 and drop boxes are necessary for safe voting during this pandemic. We urge the Superior Court of Fulton County to ensure voters have extended hours to drop off their ballots as requested in this amicus brief.”

To view the brief in full, please visit: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/amicis_motion_and_exhibit_for_filing.pdf