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Voter group sues Senator Butch Miller, other state leaders over presidential election
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Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville. - photo by Nick Bowman

Gainesville’s state Sen. Butch Miller and other Georgia leaders were sued in a U.S. District Court lawsuit concerning the Nov. 3 election concerning state legislatures’ constitutional role and changes on absentee ballot reviews, according to court documents.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 22 in the federal district court for the District of Columbia on behalf of voters alliance groups in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona as well as the Election Integrity Fund in Michigan.

Georgia state Sens. William T. Ligon and Brandon Beach are also listed as plaintiffs.

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The lawsuit claims that state legislatures are being “prohibited from fulfilling their constitutional responsibility” under Article II of the Constitution, which concerns meeting after the election to certify votes and subsequently certifying presidential electors.

“This inability to meet has existed from election day and continues through various congressionally set deadlines for the appointment of presidential electors and the counting of presidential elector votes,” according to the lawsuit. “The states legislatures of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona are unable to review the manner in which the election was conducted, are prevented from exercising their investigative powers and are unable to vote, debate or as a body speak to the conduct of the election.”

The lawsuit is seeking a declaratory judgment for current and future elections that certain state laws are unconstitutional as well as enjoining Vice President Mike Pence and Congress “from counting presidential elector votes from states unless their respective state legislatures vote affirmatively in a post-election vote to certify their presidential electors.”

A group of Republicans in the Democratic-majority House have already said they will object on President Donald Trump’s behalf during the Jan. 6 count of electoral votes, and they had needed just a single senator to go along with them to force votes in both chambers.

Miller said he has been served with the suit, which also names Gov. Brian Kemp and Speaker of the House David Ralston. The Gainesville senator, who serves as the president pro tempore of the Georgia Senate, said he and his fellow elected officials were sued in their official capacity and not as a reflection on any actions they have taken related to the election.

“It’s our longstanding precedent to not comment on pending litigation,” Kemp’s director of communications Cody Hall wrote in an email.

Miller said he expected the case “to be resolved in due course.”

Erick Kaardal, the plaintiffs’ attorney and special counsel for Amistad Project of Thomas More Society, did not return a call for comment Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Bryan Sells, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in voting rights, election law and redistricting, said he put the chances of the lawsuit succeeding at less than 1%. 

“It’s hard for me to conceive of a remedy that the federal court could order here,” Sells said.

Sells said it would be unlikely for the lawsuit to be served on all of the defendants before Congress meets next week.

In a section concerning Georgia voter practices, the lawsuit claimed the Georgia Secretary of State entered a compromise settlement agreement with the Democratic Party of Georgia in March that materially changed “the statutory requirements for reviewing signatures on absentee ballot envelopes to confirm the voter’s identity by making it far more difficult to challenge defective signatures beyond the express mandatory procedures.”

The lawsuit also alleges these changes have not been ratified into law.

“I don’t think that the consent decree conflicts with Georgia law or is outside the power that the General Assembly has given to the Secretary of State,” Sells said.

Sells said, however, “to the extent that the legislators are claiming that they were denied their constitutional role, they might have standing that a voter would not.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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