This week, the Honorable Steve C. Jones entered an opinion in the Fair Fight, Inc. v. True the Vote case, in which he declined to find—despite expressing very real concerns about defendants’ voter challenges—defendants committed voter intimidation in violation of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, et seq. In so ruling, the Court noted the tension between Georgia’s mass voter challenge law and federal law, as well as the role of Georgia’s General Assembly in legislating to prohibit mass challenges in the manner carried out by Defendants.
The case began in December 2020, when Fair Fight, represented by Lawrence & Bundy LLC and the Elias Law Group, learned that True the Vote intended to mount challenges to 346,000 Georgia registrants based on claims that the registrants were no longer eligible to vote based on suspected residency changes. But in carrying out its challenge plan, True the Vote created lists of voters that, according to the Court’s findings, “utterly lacked reliability” and verge[d] on recklessness.” (Op. at 90.) “[T]he list was shoddy and rife with errors.” (Id. at 91.) And yet, according to the Court’s final order, the reckless and error-ridden lists—even when coupled with True the Vote’s efforts to incentivize whistleblowers, attract U.S. Navy Seals to serve as poll watchers, and file repetitive lawsuits to challenge election results—were insufficient to prove unlawful voter intimidation.
Among the relief sought by Fair Fight was an order prohibiting True the Vote from facilitating mass challenges in future Georgia elections or contacting any Georgia registrants about their eligibility to vote. Although the Court declined to grant the relief sought, its opinion is far from an endorsement of True the Vote’s tactics, with the opinion stating, “the Court, in no way, is condoning TTV’s actions in facilitating a mass number of seemingly frivolous challenges.” (Id. at 123 n. 60.) Ultimately, whether conduct rises to unlawful voter intimidation is fact-intensive and, as such, those who might consider replicating True the Vote’s efforts should anticipate facing similar legal scrutiny.
With the state legislative session scheduled to begin next week, the voting rights community no doubt will be watching and advocating for legislation to curtail mass challenges like those orchestrated by True the Vote in 2021. But fresh from a legal victory upholding their widely criticized, redrawn congressional maps, the majority party of Georgia’s General Assembly may lack an incentive to entertain pro-voter reform of the state’s mass challenge laws. In any event, as Georgia maintains its place as a 2024 battleground state, mass voter eligibility challenges and this federal court ruling are expected to play a significant role in the fast-approaching election cycle.
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