Georgia Gov. Rips DOJ Lawsuit as ‘Politically Motivated Assault’
SAVANNAH — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp wasted no time on Friday responding to word the Justice Department is suing the state over a newly implemented voting law that critics believe restricts Black voter access to the polls.
At a hastily called press conference during a visit to Savannah, Kemp said the federal lawsuit is “legally and constitutionally dead wrong” and a “politically motivated assault on the rule of law and our democracy.”
“If you stand up to the woke mob, if you support election integrity, if you support law enforcement, if you support the Constitution and the rule of law … they are coming to force their agenda on you and your community,” Kemp said.
“And they are not afraid of using the full force of the federal government,” he added.
The Justice Department sued Georgia Friday to overturn Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which Kemp signed behind closed doors in March.
In addition to denying water and food to voters waiting in long lines at the polls, the new law reduces the time period voters have to request absentee ballots, limits drop box locations, imposes new identification requirements and gives greater control of election administration to the state legislature.
Among its most controversial provisions is one allowing local voting officials to decide whether or not they will hold early voting on Sundays. Voting rights advocates say by making Sunday voting optional, the state has empowered local officials to close polls on a day on which the Black vote traditionally spikes.
On Friday, Kemp defended the changes saying every state does an analysis of how the previous election went and lawmakers enact measures to address any issues that arose before the next election.
“I would remind people across the country and in the state of Georgia that we had a new voting system in place this election,” Kemp said. “So it is certainly pertinent for us to go back and fix issues we saw with the mechanics of the election.”
In announcing the lawsuit Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is also taking steps to bolster the Justice Department’s civil rights unit to challenge policies and legislation that restrict voter access and discriminate against marginalized voters.
“The rights of all citizens to vote are the central pillars of our democracy,” Garland said.
But Kemp denied any attempt to interfere with anyone’s right to vote, maintaining that the Georgia legislature “took reasonable, common sense steps to ensure the sanctity of the ballot box.”
Objecting to one Justice Department attorney suggesting there was something untoward about the bill, which grew from three to more than 90 pages before it was adopted, Kemp said federal officials had failed to learn anything about the legislative process in Georgia.
“The reality is several bills espousing changes to the voting system had already been filed, and many of these were consolidated into the final bill,” he said. “In addition, it should be noted that many of the recommendations included in the bill came from the County Commissioners Association of Georgia, which represents Republican counties and Democratic counties and their election officials … because of issues they had, on the ground, during the election.”
He also went on to suggest that far from curbing the ability to vote, the Election Integrity Act “expands access to early voting, ensures that drop boxes are available in every county and (are) secured around the clock.”
The governor accused the Biden administration of “weaponizing” the Department of Justice to “carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.”
“This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start,” Kemp said.
“We are not backing down in the face of this unconstitutional election power grab,” he added. “Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams and Merrick Garland don’t scare me.”
Despite Kemp’s bravado, the backlash since he signed the Act into law has had a real impact on Georgia. The governor himself said Friday that the state has lost at least $100 million in potential revenues since March.
In addition, several corporate giants, including Coca-Cola, which is headquartered in Atlanta, and Major League Baseball, which moved its annual All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in the wake of the law’s passage, continue to oppose the law.
Unbowed, Kemp said Friday, he’s determined to fight to ensure Georgia is a place where it is “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Attorney General Garland suggested the case against Georgia is far from the last lawsuit he expects to file due to the recent wave of election law changes in GOP-controlled states.
“We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access, and where we see violations of federal law, we will not hesitate to act,” Garland said. “We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices, in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color.”