Marc Elias is a partner at Perkins Coie, where he serves as Chair of the firm’s Political Law Group. He is also a staunch defender of democracy and has been directly involved in several lawsuits regarding recounts, redistricting and voter suppression. Elias is good at what he does. Otherwise, a website called “un-american activities” would not have labeled him as having “single-handedly destroyed democracy.” The truth is that Elias is doing his best to save democracy. He is not only directly involved in these lawsuits, but he keeps us informed via his Democracy Docket.
The focus of Elias’ docket this week was the voter suppression law in Georgia. While Republicans claim this law is not discriminatory, Elias takes us into a portion of the law that has been largely ignored by the media. To understand the ramifications of this part of the law, Elias discusses the Senate runoff in Georgia. Comparing the Secretary of State’s database to the USPS change of address registry, a Republican “activist” lodged a challenge to votes in Muscogee County, which is 45% Black and 7% Hispanic, meaning Whites are in the minority. This “activist”—someone who has absolutely no official capacity with respect to voting—challenged the eligibility of 4,033 registered voters based on his comparison of both databases. A hearing was held, and county officials identified 9 voters that they alleged justified challenging all 4,033 votes. The new law contains three different provisions that will make these types of unwarranted challenges the norm.
The first allows no limit on the number of people whose votes can be challenged. That means that any of the 10+ million residents of voting age in Georgia can arbitrarily be subjected to challenge based on someone’s whim. If a challenge is made, the second provision requires that hearings on those challenges be held within 10 days of notice to the voter. Before this law was enacted, counties could choose whether to hear a challenge. If they deemed it frivolous or unwarranted, there was no hearing. The new law in Georgia requires counties to hold hearings, regardless of the frivolousness of the challenge. Making matters worse, officials now have subpoena power, forcing the person whose vote is challenged to appear in person with little notice. Even if the challenge is rejected, the challenger can appeal in court. How many voters will go through this process? Republicans are hoping that most will not, and they can “legally” throw out their votes. Worse, the new law requires counties to participate in this unnecessary process or face sanctions. When you think of the largest counties in Georgia—Fulton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett—all three went Democratic in 2020 and all three are predominantly Black and/or Hispanic.
If Republicans still claim that their new law is not voter suppression, they are lying. Clearly, this law targets minority voters and the counties in which we all reside. As Elias said, Republicans do not want us to vote because when we do, they lose. Hopefully, the bulk of us will jump through their ridiculous hoops to ensure that our votes do count despite this Republican nonsense.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years