Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp

State: Georgia

Filed: 2021

Court: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Plaintiffs: Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, The Arc Georgia, Georgia Advocacy Office, and Georgia ADAPT.

Defendants: Governor Brian Kemp and other state and local election officials

Counsel: Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Wilmer Hale, Davis Wright Tremaine

Overview: After Georgia voters turned out in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election and U.S. Senate elections in early 2021, state legislators passed a sweeping – and unconstitutional – voting law that threatened to massively disenfranchise voters, particularly voters of color and voters with disabilities. This lawsuit challenges multiple provisions of the law, also known as SB 202, including the following items.

  • A ban on “line warming,” where volunteers provide water and snacks to people waiting in long lines to vote, a common occurrence at precincts with a large population of voters of color.
  • A severe restriction on the use of mobile voting units, which have been used to address a shortage of accessible and secure polling locations that previously resulted in long lines of voters at existing and traditional polling locations.
  • Additional and onerous identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot.
  • A compressed period for requesting absentee ballots.
  • Restrictions on the use of secure ballot drop boxes.
  • Disqualification of provisional ballots cast in a voter’s county of residence but outside the voter’s precinct before 5 p.m. Previously, votes for all the races to which the person was eligible to vote on that precinct’s provisional ballot were counted.
  • A drastic reduction of early voting in runoff elections.

Voters with disabilities have received scant attention in Georgia’s battles over voting rights but have borne the brunt of historical and continuing discrimination and neglect in all spheres of public life. Rather than celebrating the strong turnout in the 2020 general election and runoffs, S.B. 202 doubles down on making voting even more inaccessible for the disability community.

The law was debated and passed by both houses of the Georgia Legislature and signed by Governor Brian Kemp, all in under seven hours. The legislation was passed despite state officials praising the recent elections for their integrity, safety, and security. The lawsuit describes how the law violates voter protections under the 14th and 15th Amendments as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The plaintiffs represented in the case include organizations whose get-out-the-vote activities will be negatively impacted by SB 202 and people most directly affected, such as Black voters, new citizens, religious communities, and people with limited English proficiency.

Status: Litigation is ongoing.

Case Documents

First Amended Complaint

Case Resources

Southern Poverty Law Center Case Page

Southern Poverty Law Center: Nonprofit that helps people with disabilities cast ballots joins SPLC suit against voter suppression law

Webinar: “Battle for Representation: A Fight to Protect and Expand Access to the Ballot” | Webinar Transcript 

Related Media

Press Release: Georgia-based Disability Rights Groups Join Fight Against Georgia’s Anti-Voter Law S.B. 202

Huffington Post: Disability Rights Groups Join Lawsuit Over Georgia Voter Suppression Law

Blackstar News: Disability Rights Groups Join Fight Against Georgia’s Anti-Voter Law S.B. 202

New York Times: G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’