AME Church v. Kemp
Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp was filed in federal court in Atlanta. Civil rights groups filed this new federal lawsuit against Georgia’s sweeping law that makes it much harder for all Georgians to vote, particularly voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and law firms WilmerHale, and Davis Wright Tremaine brought the case on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
AME v Kemp challenges Georgia’s Anti-Voter Law — S.B. 202 — which the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate passed and Gov. Brian Kemp signed in under seven hours on the same day. These elected officials’ actions follow the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 runoff elections for two seats to the U.S. Senate that saw record turnout of voters, particularly Black voters, in Georgia.
The elections were celebrated not just for their turnout, but also for their integrity, with Georgia officials praising them as safe and secure. But rather than act to expand participation in the political process, Georgia leaders responded by doing what they have done many times in the state’s history: they placed burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters, particularly voters of color and other historically disenfranchised communities.
This lawsuit challenges multiple provisions in S.B. 202, including the following:
ban on mobile voting
new narrow identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot
delayed and compressed time period for requesting absentee ballots
restrictions on secure drop boxes
out-of-precinct provisional ballot disqualification
drastic reduction in early voting in runoff elections
perhaps most cruelly, ban on “line warming,” where volunteers provide water and snacks to Georgians, disproportionately those of color, who wait in needlessly long lines to cast their vote.
These provisions, the lawsuit charges, violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and infringe on Georgians’ rights under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
On May 25, 2021, three prominent Georgia-based disability rights groups have joined the broad-based alliance of Georgia voters, civil rights groups, and activists fighting against the implementation of the state’s unconstitutional and discriminatory Senate Bill (S.B.) 202. The groups are: The Arc Georgia (an office of The Arc of the United States), Georgia ADAPT, and the Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO).
In joining AME Church v. Kemp in the amended complaint, these groups are making it clear that — in addition to targeting Black voters, Latinx voters, other voters of color, new citizens, elderly voters, and student voters — Georgia legislators and the governor have discriminated against people with disabilities.
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.
As detailed in the amended complaint, S.B. 202 unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote of people with disabilities and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 31st anniversary on July 26, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by imposing voting barriers that will discriminate against voters with disabilities and deny people with disabilities full and equal opportunity to participate in the state’s voting programs.
The amended complaint also adds the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as a client.
March 29, 2021
Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Georgia Muslim Voter Project
Women Watch Afrika
Latino Community Fund Georgia
The Arc Georgia (an office of The Arc of the United States)
Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO)
American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU of Georgia
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
Davis Wright Tremaine
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division