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Federal trial begins alleging Georgia voter suppression in 2018

Courtroom drama pits Abrams v. Kemp in previous role as Secretary of State.

ATLANTA — A challenge to a Georgia election four years ago got underway Monday in a federal courtroom. The players include Democrat Stacey Abrams – who is running for governor a second time – and Gov. Brian Kemp – who hopes to face Abrams this coming November.  

This is a trial based on a lawsuit Abrams’ organization filed in 2018 after she lost the election to Kemp. It claims that Kemp, who was secretary of state at the time, suppressed the kind of voters Abrams would have needed to win.

On the campaign trail, Abrams still claims Republicans are trying to make it harder for voters of color to vote in Georgia.

RELATED: Stacey Abrams stumps on Gov. Kemp's middle-Georgia turf in campaign stop

In the lawsuit, the Abrams-founded Fair Fight Action claims Republicans did it successfully four years ago when Abrams lost an election to now Gov. Kemp by about 55,000 votes.

The lawsuit says because of a policy requiring exact signature matches to register to vote, “inconsequential typographical mismatches” – frequently mistakes made by the government – denied registrations to countless voters.

The same thing happened with absentee ballot applications, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit’s first witness, a voting activist, told Judge Steve Jones “we specialize in (voters) that are hard to reach.”

“Voting is not easy in the state of Georgia,” said Jessica Livoti of Care in Action.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger derided the suit and predicted it would lose on Monday.

"It’s been hollowed out because so many of the cases weren’t worth being heard by the judge. It’s bench trial," Raffensperger said. "We will beat them in a court of law.  And as I have said, we will take this all the way to the Supreme Court." 

The suit is a longshot, especially with a primary election looming in May and a general election in November. Judges have shown a strong aversion to changing voting laws at the last minute, and this case will take weeks to try.