A federal judge Thursday heard arguments seeking clarity on Georgia’s new election reform law as key parts of the new law take effect.

The start of what’s expected to be a long legal battle over Georgia’s voting process began as U.S. District Judge Jean-Paul Boulee took on the first of eight lawsuits opposing the new law. The lawsuits do not include the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit filed a week ago. Boulee will be handling all eight cases.

Lawyers for the Coalition for Good Governance argued that the new law doesn’t give voters enough time to get absentee ballots in time for upcoming runoff elections. 

The 11-day deadline to apply for absentee ballots ends Friday. In past elections, voters could request ballots as early as 180 days before an election and as late as the Friday before Election Day. 

In addition to the shorter absentee ballot deadline, the coalition’s lawyers said the new law puts severe limits on people’s ability to fully observe the election process. The Coalition for Good Governance is an election security group.

Attorneys for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger contend the new law is fair and provides for great transparency during elections.

Meanwhile, key provisions of the Georgia Election Integrity Act went into effect July 1, the same day as the hearing.

Most notably, voters will be required to show new forms of ID for the absentee ballots Starting this fall, Georgians who want to vote absentee will be required to provide their driver’s license or state ID number, the final four digits of their social security number or a copy of a utility bill or other documents. Signature matches will no longer be used.

A special election runoff for two state House seats on July 13 will be the first time the new law will be put to the test. Republican Devan Seabaugh will face off against Democrat Priscilla Smith in Cobb County while South Georgia Republicans Leesa Hagan and Wally Sapp will go head to head.

It’s unclear when Boulee will render a ruling but one expert says Thursday’s hearing is the start of a legal process against the new law that could take years to resolve.

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