Republican voter suppression has been an increasing problem ever since a conservative-dominated Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a 2013 decision.
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority in the opinion striking down the provision. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”
How’s that working out for you, Congress? With Republican gerrymandering, new discriminatory voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting, and other dirty tactics that disproportionately affect minority voters who typically — and for good reason — shun Republicans, the eviscerated statute now does little to ensure that all Americans have an equal chance at having a say in the way that they are governed.
A perfect example of the consequences of the Roberts Court’s ill-conceived ruling is now playing out in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams has been constantly fighting battles to ensure that the winner of the state’s gubernatorial race is determined by a full count of all the ballots cast. Abrams has had to contend with the fact that her Republican opponent Brian Kemp was also the Georgia Secretary of State up until his resignation late last week and therefore controlled all aspects of voter registration and the conduct of the election despite the obvious inherent conflict of interest.
Now the federal judiciary, albeit at a lower level, has stepped back into the issue of ensuring that the elections in Georgia, one of the nine states originally subject to the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, are free and fair.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May ruled that the state’s Gwinnett County violated the Civil Rights Act by rejecting absentee ballots simply because of a missing or mismatched year of birth on them. The decision means that previously rejected ballots will now be counted, giving Abrams hope that the final tally will show that no candidate received more than 50% of the total votes in the extremely tight race and forcing a runoff election as Georgia state law requires.
Judge May’s ruling comes just a day after another federal judge, U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, ordered state election officials to preserve and count provisional ballots cast in the election and notify voters whether their votes were actually accepted or not, in what was seen as another blow to Kemp’s campaign.
According to The Hill:
“May’s order said Gwinnett County is hereby ‘enjoined from rejecting absentee ballots containing an error or omission relating to the absentee voter’s year of birth’ and has been ordered to count such ballots in this year’s midterm elections.”
“She noted that although the decision arrives in the midst of ‘many hotly contested and highly publicized elections issues across the State,’ the relief granted by the order finds the ‘narrow set of ballots’ should be counted.”
It’s not just the Governor’s race that will be affected by today’s decision. The race for the House seat in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District between Republican incumbent Rob Woodall and his Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux is also still listed as too tight to determine a winner
If today’s ruling brings enough votes to turn the tide, Democrats could wind up with another shot at the Georgia Governor’s mansion and add another seat to their growing majority in the House of Representatives.
With Judge Totenberg already having ruled that Georgia state officials can’t certify the election results until Friday at 5 PM at the earliest, we still have few more days to sit and sweat out the wait until we get the final count and find out who the winners will be.
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Original reporting by Aris Folley at The Hill.