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Georgia Challenge to Hard Copy Voter Lists Rejected on Appeal

Oct. 5, 2022, 4:41 PM

A challenge to Georgia voting practices stemming from a 2017 special congressional election fell flat when the Eleventh Circuit on Wednesday said the state’s administrative concerns justified printing hard-copy backup voter lists before early voting has been completed.

Georgia’s timeline for printing voter lists doesn’t significantly burden the right to vote and is justified by the state’s reasonable interest in balancing the need to distribute a large number of lengthy lists while managing other tasks in advance of election day, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled. Whether a later print date for the hard-copy list would be a good idea “is not our call to make—that choice is one for elected officials,” the court said.

The plaintiffs, voting advocacy group Coalition for Good Governance and some of its members, filed suit in the wake of the 2017 special election for Georgia’s sixth congressional district, in which Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff—now a US senator—after a runoff election. They challenged multiple aspects of the state’s voting practices, including the date on which the state prints and distributes backup lists for checking in voters on election day.

The coalition argued Georgia should be forced to print these paper lists after early voting has closed, so that fewer provisional ballots or double-checks to confirm voter eligibility will be required. A federal judge agreed, entering a preliminary injunction ordering the state to set a new date for printing and distributing backup voter lists.

The Eleventh Circuit vacated this decision, saying that federal courts “must resist the temptation to step into the role of elected representatives, weighing the costs and benefits of various procedures when the State has already done so in a reasonable and nondiscriminatory way.”

The coalition also challenged the scanner settings of Georgia voting machines, arguing that they should be recalibrated to detect lighter markings. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed this appeal, saying that while the district court appeared to agree with the coalition, it failed to issue a preliminary injunction that could be weighed on appeal.

Judge Britt C. Grant wrote the opinion, which was joined by Judges Robert J. Luck and R. Lanier Anderson III.

The plaintiffs are variously represented by Morrison & Foerster LLP, Ichter Davis LLC, Krevolin & Horst LLC, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, William B. Ney of Lawrenceville, Ga., Bruce P. Brown of Atlanta, and Robert A. McGuire III of Seattle.

The state is represented by Robbins Alloy Belinfante Littlefield LLC, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, and Taylor English Duma LLP.

The case is Curling v. Raffensperger, 11th Cir., No. 20-13730, 10/5/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Maya Earls at mearls@bloomberglaw.com