Stacey Abrams's Org Loses One 'Fair Fight' Against Voter Purge
On Friday, a federal judge declined to reinstate nearly 100,000 voters to Georgia's voting rolls after yet another voting roll purge by the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
Judge Steve Jones of the Northern District of Georgia ruled in Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger that he could not step in and order Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reinstate some 98,000 Georgia citizens to the state's voter rolls after he purged them earlier this month. The challenge, led by Stacey Abrams's voting rights organization, Fair Fight Action, had sought to ensure that people would not be unfairly denied their right to vote.
If you're feeling a sense of deja-vu right now, that's because we've been here before. Georgia is at the very forefront of the voter suppression movement in America, and it has been for a while.
It's very likely that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp would not have his position if he hadn't done his damnedest to ensure that black voters and other people of color in Georgia could not exercise their right to vote. As secretary of State, Kemp engaged in all manner of ratfucking, from removing voters from the rolls to inviting hackers to mess with the state's information.
In 2018, Kemp defeated Assembly minority leader and general badass Stacey Abrams. But Abrams has redoubled her efforts to fight for the disenfranchised people in Georgia. Abrams's org, Fair Fight Action, was joined by several churches in challenging the most recent voter purge.
So what's the deal with this case?
Earlier this month, Fair Fight Action filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the SOS from disenfranchising these Georgia and US citizens. But on Friday, Judge Jones, an Obama appointee, declined to step in.
Until recently, Georgia law required the secretary of State to remove "inactive" voters after just three years of not voting or having "contact" with the SOS's office. This year, the state updated that time limit to five years. The roughly 98,000 voters at issue in this case qualified for removal from the rolls under the three year limit, but not under the new five year limit.
The main crux of Judge Jones's opinion is that it's not the job of federal courts to tell state officials how to interpret state law. The 11th Amendment to the US Constitution restricts the types of cases against states that can be heard by federal courts.
According to Judge Jones, the new Georgia purge law "is open to interpretation and could reasonably be interpreted as either party contends." For that reason, he holds, it would not be appropriate for a federal court to step in at this time.
The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution and the principles of sovereign immunity do not permit a federal court to enjoin a state (or its officers) to follow a federal court's interpretation of the state of Georgia's laws. Such interpretation is within the province of the state court.
But there is a glimmer of hope ...
Although the federal court rejected the plaintiffs' claims, it also all but invited them to re-file the case in state court. Due to issues of federalism, federal courts have to abstain from meddling in state affairs unless there's a constitutional issue or conflict with existing federal law. But those same principles allow state courts to do exactly what the federal courts can't.
Winning a voting rights challenge in state court in Georgia is no easy feat. Most of the state's elected judges are Republicans who favor screwing over democracy in order to win elections.
But all hope is not lost. And with Stacey Abrams at the helm, there's always hope. There is no one I would rather have leading the charge against racist ratfucking.
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