- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A federal judge in Georgia has blocked two counties from purging its voter rolls of roughly 4,000 allegedly inactive voters ahead of the next week’s runoff elections for U.S. Senate.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, who is the sister of Democratic voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, handed down the ruling after rebuffing a request that she recuse herself from the case.

Following complaints by the conservative group True The Vote, the two counties struck names from their voter rolls that also appeared on still unverified change-of-address forms filled out with the U.S. Postal Service.

Judge Gardner issued her decision Monday, days ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs that will decide which party controls the Senate.

The complaints ran afoul of the federal election law calendar and did not give voters the chance to respond in writing to a change of address before being purged from rolls, according to the ruling.

The counties involved are Ben Hill and Muscogee, with almost all of the challenged voters coming from the latter.

Because election officials in the two counties had determined the challenges had probable cause, anyone on the challenged list attempting to vote in January would have been required to prove their eligibility, as would any who used an absentee ballot.

Local election officials are the ones determining if True The Vote’s complaints have merit. Some Georgia counties, especially in Democratic strongholds around Atlanta, have ruled they do not.

In the Nov. 3 general election, Ben Hill voters gave Republican Sen. David Perdue 4,077 votes to Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff’s 2,283.

In the Nov. 3 special Senate election for the other Senate seat, Ben Hill voters gave Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler 1,780 votes to Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock’s 1,308. Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who fell short of qualifying statewide for the runoff, lead in Ben Hill with 1,880, according to the county’s figures.

The Senate vote in Muscogee was unclear, but President-elect Joseph R. Biden easily defeated President Donald Trump in the country by almost 20,000 votes.

The GOP must win one of the two runoffs to maintain its thin majority in the Senate.

Ms. Gardner was deciding on a lawsuit brought against the counties’ action by Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, who works closely with Ms. Abrams’ activist groups.

Ms. Abrams lost Georgia’s gubernatorial race in 2018 and spent months alleging voter suppression cost her the election. She later launched several voter registration efforts, one of which, the New Georgia Project, is currently under investigation by the secretary of state’s office for allegations it “repeatedly and aggressively” tried to recruit “ineligible, out-of-state or deceased voters,” according to reports.

Shortly after the Nov. 3 election, some Democratic activists urged people to move to Georgia to vote in the January runoffs. Such a move for election purposes is a felony in Georgia.

Thus far, more than 2 million votes have been cast in early voting for the runoffs, suggesting turnout for them will shatter runoff records in the Peach State.

This article includes wire service reports.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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