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Case Name Black Voters Matter Fund v. Raffensperger VR-GA-0170
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-01489 ( N.D. Ga. )
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project. So for more current information, see their tracker. COVID-19 Summary: This is a class-action suit brought by a nonprofit ... read more >
NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project. So for more current information, see their tracker. COVID-19 Summary: This is a class-action suit brought by a nonprofit organization and an individual against the state of Georgia to challenge the state’s requirement to purchase postage stamps for mail-in ballots. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring election officials to provide prepaid returnable envelopes for absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. On April 30, the preliminary injunction was denied for the June primaries and on August 11, the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction was denied as to Count I of the amended complaint, and which was accordingly dismissed.


On April 8, 2020, Black Voters Matter Fund and an individual voter filed a class-action lawsuit against the Secretary of State of Georgia and the Dekalb County Board of Registration & Elections to challenge the state’s requirement to purchase postage stamps for mail-in ballots. The plaintiffs filed the suit after anticipating mail-in votes to skyrocket for the June and November 2020 elections, given that the COVID-19 pandemic posed health risks for in-person voting. The plaintiffs argued that because election officials required voters to pay postage, the state unconstitutionally forced voters to pay in order to participate in the election. They also alleged that the poll tax posed an undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, they sought declaratory and injunctive relief injunction requiring election officials to provide prepaid returnable envelopes for absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. The plaintiffs also filed a preliminary injunction and sought attorney fees. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Georgia. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and assigned to Judge Amy Totenberg.

On April 20, the defendants filed an opposition to the preliminary injunction, claiming that the Secretary had already taken various steps to mitigate the risk of harm to Georgia primary voters during the COVID-19 outbreak. On April 23, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

On April 30, the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction was denied as to the June primaries. 2020 WL 2079240. This was, in part, because the state had already begun mailing ballots to voters and as such, the plaintiffs' proposed remedies would be difficult to implement. The court noted that the requested relief for subsequent elections remained pending and would be addressed in a separate decision.

On May 11, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to add two other voter plaintiffs and the Director of Voter Registration and Elections as a defendant. The same day, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the original complaint as moot. The next day, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' amended complaint. On May 12, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction, and sought to expedite the briefing process to implement the requested relief in time for the August runoff. The request was denied on May 15, and the court noted that the emergency motion did not raise any new facts or arguments, instead “‘incorporat[ing] by reference all prior filings and evidence submitted in connection with the Original Plaintiffs’ prior motion for preliminary injunction’ and seek[ing] relief for the August runoff and November general elections.”

On May 18, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, stating that the claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment and legislative immunity. On May 31, the plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a defendant class of all Georgia boards of registrars, their members, their election directors, county registrars, and municipal absentee ballot clerks, as well as a plaintiff class of all registered Georgia voters. The plaintiff class was subdivided into a subclass of all registered Georgia voters who satisfy one of the COVID-19 risk factors identified by the Center for Disease Control.

On August 11, the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction was denied as to Count I of the amended complaint, which alleged that the state imposed an unconstitutional poll tax in violation of the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. 2020 WL 4597053. While the court noted that the plaintiffs “presented compelling evidence that the state’s handling of the June 2020 election was plagued with difficulties, including many instances of voters not receiving their absentee ballots, and as a result being unnecessarily exposed to the virus[,]” the court found that such issues were “beyond the scope of this litigation, which is focused on the postage requirement for absentee voting.” The court also pointed to other courts in this district considering direct challenges regarding those issues and that variations may lead to different outcomes. Accordingly, the defendant’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint was granted for Count I of the complaint but denied as to Count II.

The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 08/13/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
COVID-19
Mitigation Requested
General
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Voting
Challenges to at-large/multimember district/election
Voter qualifications
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Dekalb County Board of Registration & Elections
Secretary of State of Georgia
Plaintiff Description Black Voters Matter Fund and an individual voter on behalf of all Georgia voters and a subclass of all registered Georgia voters who satisfy one of the COVID-19 risk factors identified by the Center for Disease Control
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 05/11/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger
American Civil Liberties Union
Date: Apr. 13, 2020
By: American Civil Liberties Union
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger
ACLU of Georgia
Date: Apr. 8, 2020
By: ACLU Georgia
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ga.
08/11/2020
1:20-cv-01489-AT
VR-GA-0170-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Ga.
04/08/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
VR-GA-0170-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
04/08/2020
Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 2 & (2-1 to 2-11)]
VR-GA-0170-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
04/09/2020
Plaintiffs' Supplemental Brief in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 8]
VR-GA-0170-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
04/20/2020
Response of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 51 (& 51-1 to 51-8)]
VR-GA-0170-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
04/30/2020
Defendant DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections' Motion to Dismiss and Incorporated Memorandum of Law in Support Thereof [ECF# 80]
VR-GA-0170-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
04/30/2020
Order [ECF# 83] (2020 WL 2079240)
VR-GA-0170-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/01/2020
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Defendant Raffensperger's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 84]
VR-GA-0170-0008.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/11/2020
Amended Complaint [ECF# 88]
VR-GA-0170-0009.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/12/2020
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [ECF# 90]
VR-GA-0170-0010.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/12/2020
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Defendant Raffensperger's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint [ECF# 91]
VR-GA-0170-0011.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/12/2020
Plaintiffs Black Voters Matter Fund and Megan Gordon's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction and for Expedited Briefing [ECF# 93]
VR-GA-0170-0012.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/14/2020
Defendants Anthony Lewis, Susan Motter, Dele Loman Smith, Samuel E. Tillman, Baoky N.. Vu, Erica Hamilton and the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 96]
VR-GA-0170-0013.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/14/2020
Plaintiffs' BVM and Gordon's Reply Brief in Support of Their Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction and For Expedited Briefing [ECF# 98]
VR-GA-0170-0014.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/14/2020
Plaintiffs BVM and Gordon's Supplemental Reply Brief [ECF# 100]
VR-GA-0170-0015.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/15/2020
Order [ECF# 101]
VR-GA-0170-0016.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/26/2020
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to DeKalb Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 107]
VR-GA-0170-0017.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/26/2020
Stipulation of Voluntary Dismissal of Plaintiff Andy Kim [ECF# 108]
VR-GA-0170-0018.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
05/31/2020
Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 110 (& 110-1 to 110-6)]
VR-GA-0170-0019.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
06/01/2020
The DeKalb Defendants' Reply in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint [ECF# 111]
VR-GA-0170-0020.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
06/15/2020
The DeKalb Defendants' Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 114]
VR-GA-0170-0021.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
07/22/2020
Plaintiffs' Reply to the Secretary's Response Regarding Plaintiffs' June 30 Supplemental Submission [ECF# 135]
VR-GA-0170-0022.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ga.
08/11/2020
Order and Opinion [ECF# 139] (2020 WL 4597053)
VR-GA-0170-0023.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Totenberg, Amy Mil (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0006 | VR-GA-0170-0016 | VR-GA-0170-0023 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ho, Dale E. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0001 | VR-GA-0170-0002 | VR-GA-0170-0003 | VR-GA-0170-0008 | VR-GA-0170-0009 | VR-GA-0170-0011 | VR-GA-0170-0012 | VR-GA-0170-0014 | VR-GA-0170-0015 | VR-GA-0170-0017 | VR-GA-0170-0018 | VR-GA-0170-0019 | VR-GA-0170-0022 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Lakin, Sophia L. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0001 | VR-GA-0170-0002 | VR-GA-0170-0003 | VR-GA-0170-0008 | VR-GA-0170-0009 | VR-GA-0170-0011 | VR-GA-0170-0012 | VR-GA-0170-0014 | VR-GA-0170-0015 | VR-GA-0170-0017 | VR-GA-0170-0018 | VR-GA-0170-0019 | VR-GA-0170-0022 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Young, Sean (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0001 | VR-GA-0170-0002 | VR-GA-0170-0003 | VR-GA-0170-0008 | VR-GA-0170-0009 | VR-GA-0170-0011 | VR-GA-0170-0012 | VR-GA-0170-0014 | VR-GA-0170-0015 | VR-GA-0170-0017 | VR-GA-0170-0018 | VR-GA-0170-0019 | VR-GA-0170-0022 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Belinfante, Joshua Barrett (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004 | VR-GA-0170-0010 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Carr, Christopher M. (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004
Cowart, Annette (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004
Denton, Alexander Fraser (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Johnson, Melanie Leigh (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Johnson, Laura K. (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0005 | VR-GA-0170-0013 | VR-GA-0170-0020 | VR-GA-0170-0021
Lake, Brian Edward (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004 | VR-GA-0170-9000
McGowan, Charlene S. (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Momo, Shelley Driskell (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0005 | VR-GA-0170-0013 | VR-GA-0170-0020 | VR-GA-0170-0021 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Russo, Vincent Robert Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Vander Els, Irene B. (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0005 | VR-GA-0170-0013 | VR-GA-0170-0020 | VR-GA-0170-0021 | VR-GA-0170-9000
Willard, Russell D. (Georgia) show/hide docs
VR-GA-0170-0004

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