To the dismay of partisans, Georgia has legitimate elections
Over the past several years, Republicans and Democrats have both questioned the validity of election results that didn’t go in their favor. These claims have particularly cast a shadow over the Peach State’s handling of its elections, given its key role in determining the 2020 presidential winner and controversies around the 2018 governor’s race.
While a host of these allegations have already been litigated ad nauseam, a slow-moving case centered around Georgia’s elections – Fair Fight Action vs. Raffensperger – has finally been decided in federal court. And it turns out that Georgia’s elections are in better shape than many might believe.
The case arose following Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election in which then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, eked out a narrow victory. The election was quickly mired in controversy and tainted with claims of illegitimacy, and it became a flashpoint as some of those on the political left claimed that the election had been stolen.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution found that “no evidence emerged of systematic malfeasance – or of enough tainted votes to force a runoff election.” Nevertheless, plaintiffs led by Fair Fight Action, which is a darling of the political left, sued the state. It alleged serious, racially discriminatory impediments to voting.
The group “challenged Georgia’s absentee ballot provisions, oversight of voter rolls and the state’s “exact match” law, which mandates that a voter’s name on their voter application be identical to their government identification,” wrote the New York Times.
After presenting their cases, both parties awaited the court’s decision, and just days ago, it finally came down. U.S. District Court Judge Steven Jones rejected all of Fair Fight Action’s claims. “Although Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the constitution nor the Voting Rights Act,” Judge Jones ruled.
Ultimately, Jones determined that the plaintiffs failed to show “direct evidence of a voter who was unable to vote, experienced longer wait times, [or] was confused about voter registration status.”
Before anyone impugns Jones and accuses him of being some sort of right-wing judicial activist, it’s important to remember that he was a President Barack Obama nominee. He’s not the kind of person you’d expect to rule against Fair Fight Action without good reason, but the legal fight came at a cost.
The Georgia Attorney General’s office reportedly expended more than $6 million defending the state, and it would appear that the attorney general (AG) believes the vindication was worth it. “This ruling confirms what I have said all along. There is not one single eligible Georgian in 2018 who was prohibited from voting,” AG Chris Carr, a Republican, explained. Meanwhile, Fair Fight Action lambasted Jones’ decision – calling it a “significant loss for the voting rights community in Georgia and across the country.”
Love the decision or hate it, this was one of just many cases in which the courts have upheld the validity of our elections despite Republicans and Democrats increasingly claiming that they are rigged. However, these allegations aren’t limited to just Georgia’s statewide contests – far from it.
Most notably, former President Donald J. Trump became one of history’s most prominent election deniers after losing his re-election bid. “[The 2020] election is about great voter fraud, fraud that has never been seen like this before … It’s about ballots that poured in and nobody but a few knew where they came from. … It’s about machinery that was defective,” Trump complained.
He honed his ire particularly on states like Georgia, which flipped in favor of his opposition, but after audits, dozens of lawsuits, and expert analyses, no evidence has emerged to prove his claims that he won re-election. In fairness to Trump, he wasn’t the first national figure to chart this path, although he took it to extreme lengths.
After Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton lost her presidential bid in 2016, she suggested that the election had been “stolen” and called Trump an “illegitimate president.” “I believe [Trump] understands that the many varying tactics they used, from voter suppression and voter purging to hacking to the false stories – he knows that – there were just a bunch of different reasons why the election turned out like it did,” she asserted. Like Trump’s claims, Clinton’s don’t seem to hold any water either.
While it is critically important to safeguard our elections and investigate legitimate claims of fraud and voter suppression, increasing numbers of politicians are instead using the media and courts as outlets to vent their anger over losing fair and square, which undermines faith in voting.
Thankfully, the courts have been a steadfast firewall against unfounded elections claims that threaten the fabric of our form of government, and to date, we’ve learned that faith in Georgia’s elections isn’t misplaced.