LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Voting rights advocates filed an emergency lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
The plaintiffs are demanding that Gwinnett County restore the first week of early voting at seven satellite locations, which was recently eliminated during the budget process. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law brought the suit on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Gwinnett County NAACP, and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda.
“The eleventh-hour attempt to strike early voting opportunities is yet another attempt at voter suppression and a direct violation of constitutional rights,” said John Powers, Counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Voters in Gwinnett County have historically been forced to endure long wait times to cast their ballots in elections. With the March 2020 primary election looming, it is imperative that Gwinnett County and other Georgia counties comply with the U.S. Constitution and provide voters a fair opportunity to cast their ballot and have their voice heard.”
The plaintiffs have filed a request seeking emergency relief. A hearing has been scheduled for 2 pm on Monday, March 2 at the federal courthouse in downtown Atlanta. The case has been assigned to Judge Steven Grimberg.
The lawsuit alleges that Gwinnett County’s decision to eliminate the first week of early voting violating burdens citizens’ right to vote in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Gwinnett County’s decision to eliminate the use of satellite locations for the week of March 2 was made with little fanfare in January even though the county’s board of elections had previously approved a budget request asking for the satellite locations to be open that week. Under that request, the seven satellite locations would have been open from March 2 through March 8 for the March primary election, including Saturdays and Sundays, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. As a result, the only early voting location that will be open between March 2 and March 8 will be the Gwinnett Voter Registration and Elections Office in Lawrenceville.
Gwinnett County’s plan means that history is likely going to repeat itself. During the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, Gwinnett County had only one voting location at the start of the early voting period, which resulted in extraordinarily long lines. In 2016, hundreds of voters were forced to wait up to four to five hours to cast their ballot, while dozens of others left the line without ever voting. Three voters collapsed while waiting outside in extreme weather conditions. Voters also saw delays of more than an hour and 15 minutes during the early voting period leading up to the November 2018 general midterm elections.
The plaintiffs in this case have already called on Gwinnett County to preserve the hours of operation of satellite early voting locations ahead of the March 2020 primary election. In letters sent to the County in January and February, the civil rights organizations expressed their concern about the elimination of every satellite early voting location for the first week of early voting.
A copy of the complaint can be found here.
A copy of the emergency motion can be found here.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.