FILE - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Georgia, Georgia's Secretary of State, and other election officials for the state's recent voting reform law, officials announced Friday. Georgia officials derided the lawsuit as politically motivated.

Federal justice officials said several provisions in Senate Bill 202 block the right to vote for Georgians based on race. Gov. Brian Kemp signed the elections overhaul bill into law on March 25.

"The right to vote is one of the most central rights in our democracy and protecting the right to vote for all Americans is at the core of the Civil Rights Division's mission," Assistant Attorney General for Justice Department's Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke said. "The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each eligible citizen can register, cast a ballot, and have that ballot counted free from racial discrimination. Laws adopted with a racially motivated purpose, like Georgia Senate Bill 202, simply have no place in democracy today."

The U.S. Justice Department asked the court to block provisions in the law that attorneys say are discriminatory.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said the U.S. Department's lawsuit is politically motivated and is a product of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams' campaign against the bill. The Justice Department is "factually, legally and constitutionally" wrong," he said.

"Georgia's law clearly strengthens security, expands access and improves transparency in our elections," Carr said. "[U.S. Attorney General] Merrick Garland said he was going to depoliticize the Justice Department yet files this blatantly political lawsuit. It is disappointing for those of us who respect the rule of law because this is not a lawsuit. It is a political campaign flier. Falsely using race to scare people of color into believing their vote will not be counted is irresponsible and fundamentally wrong."

Kemp echoed Carr's statement Friday, calling the lawsuit a power grab by Abrams and President Joe Biden.

"Now, they are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy," Kemp said. "As Secretary of State, I fought the Obama Justice Department twice to protect the security of our elections – and won. I look forward to going three for three to ensure it's easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia."

The Justice Department takes issue with the portions of the bill that ban government entities from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications and fine civic organizations, churches and advocacy groups for sending them. They also oppose the shortening of deadlines for absentee ballots and out-of-precinct provisional ballots. They allege that the limitations on drop boxes and restrictions on food and water giveaways close to precincts or polling lines are discriminatory, and so is a photocopy identification requirement in the bill.

Friday's lawsuit is one of several filed against the bill. Georgia has also faced backlash from Democrats, businesses and the entertainment industry. Major League Baseball announced on April 2 also pulled its All-Star Game events from the city. Kemp said it cost the state $100 million in revenue.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that leading U.S. Department of Justice officials have long records of advocating for voting rights, which may be the driving force behind the lawsuit. The Biden administration will still be seeking federal legislation to overrule the law, she said. Psaki also pushed back against Kemp during a media briefing Friday.

"If you have such a fear of making it easier and more accessible for people to vote, then I would ask you what you're so afraid of," Psaki said.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.