Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger
The ACLU of Georgia filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Black Voters Matter challenging the constitutionality of requiring voters to buy postage stamps when submitting mail-in absentee ballots and mailing in absentee ballot applications. This is tantamount to a poll tax.
The legal claim is straightforward. The United States Constitution, through the Twenty-Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, bans poll taxes. Postage costs money. Election officials require Georgia voters to pay postage when submitting mail-in absentee ballots. This is a poll tax and, therefore, unconstitutional.
The ACLU of Georgia seeks a preliminary injunction to require election officials to provide prepaid returnable envelopes for absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. Election officials already know how to do this, because the law already requires them to provide postage prepaid returnable envelopes for other purposes.
Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. The lawsuit is about historically marginalized voters who live on shoestring budgets and lack access to all the resources that wealthier people take for granted.
The lawsuit states:
- “Many lower-income voters do not have postage stamps. They no longer need to use them or have never needed to use them. They cannot be expected to needlessly expose themselves to the pandemic just to get stamps in order to vote. That assumes they can even get there, when many do not have cars and ride-sharing and public transportation is non-existent in rural parts of the state.
“Voters without Internet access or a credit card cannot buy stamps online, and if they do, they must unnecessarily purchase an unaffordable book of stamps (about $10) because they aren’t allowed to buy just one. Making matters worse, voters are left guessing about how much postage to use because ballots vary in size and weight. So they must add potentially unnecessary extra postage just to be safe from the risk of being disenfranchised. It hardly bears mention that few people actually own stamp scales.”
Moreover, under binding legal precedent, a poll tax remains illegal regardless of whether “free” alternatives exist, such as voting in-person. During this highly contagious pandemic, expecting Georgians to place themselves and vulnerable loved ones in danger is unconscionable.
The ACLU of Georgia sought a preliminary injunction as soon as possible so that no Georgia voter has to pay a poll tax to vote in the upcoming elections. At a minimum, poll taxes should be eliminated well before the November general election. On August 11, 2020, the district court rejected the argument.
On September 9, 2020, the ACLU of Georgia filed an appeal in its federal lawsuit on behalf of Black Voters Matter challenging the constitutionality of requiring voters to buy postage stamps when submitting mail-in absentee ballots. This is tantamount to a poll tax.
The legal claim remains straightforward. The United States Constitution bans poll taxes. Postage costs money. Election officials require Georgia voters to pay postage if they want their mail-in absentee ballot to be received, amounting to a poll tax. It is unrealistic for many voters to cast ballots in-person due to age, disability, or out-of-town voters as well as many others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit is also about historically marginalized voters who live on shoestring budgets and lack access to all the resources that wealthier people take for granted. The state is essentially forcing these voters to pay in order to participate in our democracy.
April 8, 2020