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Groups seek to block Georgia regulations on sending out absentee ballot applications

The coalition in the lawsuit includes VoteAmerica, Voter Participation Center and the Center for Voter Information.

ATLANTA — A coalition of civic groups was in court this week to challenge several provisions of Georgia's contentious 2021 voting law that regulate how advocacy groups can send out absentee ballot applications.

The law, according to the Campaign Legal Center - which is helping represent the groups in the federal lawsuit - bars nongovernmental organizations and nonprofits from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who have already requested one.

If they run afoul of that rule, there is a $100 fine for each application.

RELATED: Lawsuits against Georgia voting law moves forward after judge denies motions to dismiss

The Campaign Legal Center says the law, S.B. 202, also "requires nongovernmental organizations to add a disclaimer on every absentee ballot application they distribute stating... that the form is not an official government form," which they argue is confusing because they do have to provide the official ballot application.

"This misleading and inaccurate disclaimer has proven confusing for voters, who may reasonably fear their application will be rejected if it is not official,'" the legal group argues.

A third provision being challenged is one that, they say, bars voter outreach groups from sending out applications pre-filled with a voter's name, address and other information.

The coalition in the lawsuit includes VoteAmerica, Voter Participation Center and the Center for Voter Information. According to the Campaign Legal Center, attorneys right now are seeking a temporary injunction against the rules so that the groups "can continue to send absentee ballot applications to voters ahead of the 2022 general election."

They were in court in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Thursday and Friday for arguments. No ruling has yet been issued, Jonathan Diaz, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center who is working the suit, said.

"I think we made clear to the court during this two-day hearing that certain provisions of SB 202 restrict our clients’ ability to distribute absentee ballot applications to eligible Georgia voters in violation of the First Amendment," Diaz said in a statement. "Our clients are civic engagement groups who are just trying to help Americans across the country - including in Georgia - participate in the political process. It’s a shame that the state is trying to stifle their speech and prevent them from helping its own citizens."

 State officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp, have defended the law saying it "ensures Georgia elections are secure, accessible and fair."

The law signed last year instituted a range of new provisions as a Republican response out of Georgia's state legislature in response to the rancor that surrounded the 2020 presidential election and allegations of fraud.

It required ID for absentee ballots, scaled back drop box access and added a day of early voting, among other provisions.

One of the most contentious of those provisions was restricting groups from giving out food and water to those in voting line. 

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