Asian American Voters’ Lawsuit Against SB 202 Moves Forward

December 10, 2021 News

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Asian American Voters’ Lawsuit Against SB 202 Moves Forward

Judge Affirms AAPI Voters Can Hold Government Accountable for Violating Their Right to Vote

ATLANTA — On December 9, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia denied motions by Georgia state elections officials, the Republican Party, and various county defendants to dismiss Asian American voters’ lawsuit challenging SB 202, a sweeping anti-voting bill passed earlier this year by Georgia’s Republican-controlled state legislature along party lines.

“Instead of doing their duty as our elected representatives and helping everyone participate in our democracy, politicians are attempting to silence me, my family, and my community,” said Angie Tran, a plaintiff in this case along with her mother. “As a limited English speaking voter who is also a caregiver, my mother relies on absentee mail-in voting to make fully informed decisions.” Angie’s mother is among the 33% (1 in 3) Asian Americans in Georgia who are limited English proficient and, like many voters, is impacted by the barriers erected by SB 202.

Among other provisions, SB 202 shortens the window to apply for and receive mail-in ballots, restricts access to secure drop boxes, forces voters to satisfy unnecessary ID requirements before voting by mail, prohibits election officials from proactively mailing ballot applications to registered voters, and criminalizes certain assistance with ballot applications. These unjustified efforts to restrict remote voting undermine the ability of Georgia’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters to participate in the democratic process. In the November 2020 election, approximately 40% of Georgian AAPI voters cast their ballots remotely, compared to about 26% of all voters.

“My son was born in October 2020, and in November, I voted for the first time as a father. I knew that my child’s future was on the ballot. And I wasn’t alone. Asian American voters doubled our turnout from the 2016 election because we know that who we elect directly impacts the well-being of our families and communities. Asian American families in Georgia insist that our voices be heard,” added Deepum Patel, another plaintiff in the case.

Since 2010, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta (Advancing Justice-Atlanta), which is both a plaintiff and counsel in the lawsuit, has helped Georgians vote and participate in elections, including by supporting thousands of voters who speak Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, and Spanish. Recent studies have shown that mail-in ballot options and access to drop boxes help people with limited English proficiency, newly naturalized citizens, and first-time voters increase their participation in democratic processes.

“In 2022, the Asian American electorate will play a decisive role in deciding who governs both our state and country. We are committed to ensuring our communities have an equal and fair say in determining our future,” said Phi Nguyen, Executive Director of Advancing Justice-Atlanta. “The Court’s ruling moves us one step closer to defeating the attacks on communities of color, including immigrant and limited English proficient voters.”

The suit was filed in April by civil rights organizations, Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Advancing Justice-AAJC, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, and pro bono counsel Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP. New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund, Georgia NAACP, the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Arc Georgia, Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, and the Latino Fund Community of Georgia also filed legal challenges against SB 202 for its targeted attacks on Black and Brown voters and voters with disabilities. All of these cases also survived motions to dismiss by the defendants.

“The Court’s ruling enables us to move forward towards securing equitable ballot access for all voters in Georgia, including AAPI voters,” said attorney Connie Sung of Keker, Van Nest and Peters. “We are confident the evidence will show that SB 202 is unlawful and cannot stand.”