The U.S. Northern District of Georgia came back with a “monumentally" favorable judgment for True the Vote (TTV) on Tuesday. Judge Steve Jones ruled Plaintiffs Fair Fight “have not carried their burden to show a violation of Section 11(b)” of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) (1965). Section 11(b) prohibits “under color of law or otherwise” attempts to intimidate or coerce voters. TTV did not violate Section 11(b) when they challenged 364,541 potentially ineligible voters in Georgia related to the 2020 election.
Attorneys for True the Vote stated in Tuesday’s press release that the ruling is “a decisive triumph in their legal battle against Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, legal teams led by Marc Elias, and the Biden Department of Justice.” The press release continues, “True the Vote President, Catherine Engelbrecht affirmed, ‘Today’s ruling sends a clear message to those who would try to control the course of our nation through lawfare and intimidation. American citizens will not be silenced.’” Attorney Jake Evans stated “the decision is monumental.”
In direct contradiction to Fair Fight claims, based on witness testimony for Plaintiffs, the judge found that no one from True the Vote had “any direct communications” with the Plaintiffs, thus removing any truth to Fair Fight’s claims that TTV intimidated Georgia voters. Judge Jones opined extensively on witness testimony for the trial.
In the case of Jane Doe who did not testify at the trial, he found “concern” with the “reliability” of her submitted declaration. Judge Jones wrote, “Not only is Jane Doe’s affidavit self-serving and made without benefit of cross-examination,” her “statements” and the articles she referenced to substantiate them “would ordinarily constitute hearsay.” In fact, Jones wrote he had “severe concerns about the reliability of Jane Doe’s attestations.”
Notably, in the case of Banks County Voter Jocelyn Heredia, while there was no evidence of intimidation by TTV, the Court found “a challenge to Heredia’s voting eligibility, however, was not unreasonable.” She lived in “three different apartments–and had worked–in Atlanta for the three years prior to voting in Banks County in the Senate runoff election…there was a reasonable question about her residency for purposes of voting in the 2020 elections. Heredia even admitted to as much herself,” Judge Jones wrote.
It is clear from the ruling that Jones was listening intently to Engelbrecht during her testimony. He explicitly recognized in his decision TTV’s mission in “[s]upport of voters’ rights and empowering citizens to serve,” among other statements made by Engelbrecht in her testimony regarding the work carried out by her organization.
Jones also mentioned Engelbrecht’s meetings with the Secretary of State’s office, including SOS Raffensperger, Ryan Germany “and others.” Engelbrecht recalled on the stand her Dec. 16, 2020 meeting with Raffensperger and staff. She remembered Raffensperger’s response at the time confirmed there might be significant inaccuracies in Georgia’s rolls given, according to Raffensperger, “they hadn’t been able to clean the rolls because of the lawsuit.”
Judge Jones was not as supportive of Engelbrecht’s perceptions of the meeting with regard to “Georgia election regulations and procedures.” He writes that Engelbrecht’s testimony contradicts Ryan Germany’s and says Germany is “more credible given his impartiality in this case and [election-related] experience.” Judge Jones found Germany’s testimony “particularly credible in this case.”
Germany testified that NVRA makes “the State’s voter list maintenance difficult,” in part because of the “90-day black out period before an election for systematic removals and the lengthy process of removing unresponsive NCOA voters.”
Germany also confirmed to the Court that “one of the few remaining ways to scrutinize voter rolls immediately prior to an election was an eligibility challenge under O.C.G.A. § 21-2-230. Tr. 513:5–8.” He also confirmed “the importance of county Board of Elections in the Section 230 process,” a process followed by TTV during its investigation. Boards of Election must comply “with relevant laws and regulations” and challenges are at the “discretion of the county,” Judge Jones wrote referencing Germany’s testimony.
While Germany did take the stand, it begs the question as to why neither Abrams nor Raffensperger ever showed up to testify in the case. Perhaps it is because Raffensperger certified an election knowing there were significant numbers of ineligible voters on the rolls. One also wonders why the DOJ spent millions of taxpayer dollars to participate in this lawsuit.
It is also remarkable that not a single GOP or conservative group ever joined TTV to fight for Georgia voters.
TTV has always been diligent to follow relevant state laws and regulations and understands the need to respect county discretion with regard to voter registration roll maintenance. Judge Jones spoke eloquently to these issues in his ruling. He wrote that neither TTV or any other challenger associated with the case “had control over, attempted to manipulate these County Boards of Election,” thus contradicting Fair Fight’s “causation issues.” The Boards were always intermediary to the challenges brought forward by TTV.
CDM is delighted to welcome Wendi Strauch Mahoney as a guest contributor.