After a highly touted 2018 campaign season which led to historic numbers of early votes in the State of Georgia, it appears that the Republicans will continue to control both the state legislature and executive branch. Additionally, a majority of the state’s Federal House seats went to Republican candidates. But all is not gloom and doom for Georgia Democrats, the Democratic Party did gain eight seats in the State House (six of which were from Republican incumbents), two seats in the State Senate, and one seat in the Federal House.
Despite the 2018 midterm election results, Georgia’s political environment is very dynamic and constantly being influenced by lawsuits. Georgia has not only settled several election-based lawsuits over the last year, they also have multiple election-based lawsuits ongoing – three of which could significantly assist in reshaping Georgia’s political environment.
Georgia’s racial gerrymandering case is probably the most well-known of these three cases. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that race dominated the process of redrawing legislative districts in 2015. However, the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction was denied despite the fact that the three-judge panel found “compelling” evidence that race did indeed dominate the redistricting process.
In an attempt to further contest Georgia’s newly drawn legislative districts, a national Democratic group also filed a lawsuit in early June – on behalf of four black Georgia voters – claiming that the districts are drawn in a manner that directly violates the Voting Rights Act by disempowering African-American voters.
While the two aforementioned redistricting lawsuits could greatly impact future elections within Georgia, there is one procedural lawsuit pending that could have significant influence on both the 2018 midterm election and future elections.
Media outlets have been claiming for the past two-years that Georgia’s voting equipment is antiquated and highly susceptible to fraud. While these allegations typically pertain to Georgia’s antiquated voting machines, recently there has been a growing concern that the state’s voter registration database has been compromised.
On 05 November 2018, the Brennan Center and co-counsel filed a lawsuit against Georgia’s Secretary of State on behalf of Common Cause Georgia (CCGA). The Brennan Center claims that the Secretary of State “knowingly maintained” an unsecure voter registration database which increased the likelihood that a voter’s registration information would be wrongfully manipulated within the state’s voter registration database.
If a registered voter’s information was altered within the database, it would greatly increase the probability of their ballot being placed in a “provisional” status. Moreover, the fact that a provisional ballot is not counted in the state unless elections officials can determine that the voter is actually registered further exacerbates the entire issue.
The Plaintiff’s lawsuit not only requested that the Court grant a temporary restraining order that would prevent the rejection of any provisional ballots cast during the 2018 midterm election, they are also seeking to change future elections by requesting that the Court require the state to institute a modified provisional ballot counting system.
Furthermore, the Court did partially grant the Plaintiff’s temporary restraining order request on November 12th by ordering the state to take several steps that are aimed at protecting the voters who cast provisional ballots; these steps include, a mandate that requires Georgia officials to thoroughly review all provisional ballots, as well as, launching both a hotline and website that will enable voters to check the status of their ballots.
While this dispute seems to be nearing an end, time will only tell how the two aforementioned redistricting lawsuits turnout. Still, these lawsuits could be very fruitful for Georgia’s Democratic constituency. Or, depending on the verdict, they could also be very expensive battles that help further cultivate a state of perpetual political inertia in Georgia.