Georgia judge dismisses Republican lawsuit challenging election law changes

Given the concern over the legitimacy of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results, Republicans have devoted extra attention to preventing irregularities from occurring in the upcoming special Senate runoff races in the state on Jan. 5.

A lawsuit toward that end filed by the Georgia Republican Party and Republican National Committee was dismissed on Thursday by a Fulton County judge, the Washington Examiner reported.

The suit requested clarifying changes to election law procedures involving drop boxes for mail-in absentee ballots as well as access for poll watchers in ballot counting facilities.

Ballot drop boxes

The Republicans argued that absentee ballot drop boxes should only be open and available for use during normal business hours, given that they are essentially satellite extensions of county elections offices, which are only open during normal business hours.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams dismissed the case, in effect allowing the drop boxes to continue to be open and available for use 24 hours a day, albeit under video surveillance, until the polls close on Jan. 5.

An attorney for the secretary of state’s office noted that drop boxes had remained open at all hours during the general election due to a rule change that was approved earlier in the year by the State Election Board, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Case dismissed

Russ Willard, a senior assistant attorney general arguing on behalf of the state, said during the hearing, “The public has confidence that the rules of the game will not be altered to indulge the needs of a political party who is trying to benefit their particular candidates.” He added, “Plaintiffs want to poke at the bear and adjust the election machinery when we only have one week of early advance voting and one week of absentee voting left to go.”

That characterization was disputed by an attorney for the state’s Republican Party, Leah Zammit, who said, “This case is absolutely not about the expansion or dilution of voter rights. … This case and this motion is about ensuring that individual counties, 159 within the state of Georgia, do not themselves alter the election rules.”

The Journal-Constitution noted that Judge Adams dismissed the lawsuit based on her understanding of the state’s sovereign immunity protections for the government and government officials against lawsuits, suggesting that she had no jurisdiction to hear the complaints within the Republican lawsuit.

Sovereign immunity

Local media outlet WXIA reported that Georgia voted on Nov. 3 to scale back the state’s sovereign immunity protections via a constitutional amendment, but that change doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, is only applicable for acts by officials committed after Jan. 1, and may not apply to this particular case even if it were already in effect.

Also lost for Republicans in the dismissal of the lawsuit was an effort to win greater access and protections for poll watchers that would help ensure they were able to observe the ballot counting process in an effective manner.

This is yet another disappointing loss for Republicans in the aftermath of the disputed elections and will only serve to further dampen enthusiasm and participation on the right in two hugely important Senate races.

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