Federal Judge blocks exclusion of thousands of Georgia voters before runoff election3 min read

By-Jhanvi Tayal

Judge Leslie Gardner, a federal judge in Georgia on December 28, 2020 blocks /prevented two Georgia counties namely Ben Hill County and Muscogee County from detaining more than 4,000 registered voters from their rolls and removing them from casting a regular ballot on January 5, 2021 runoff elections which will decide the control of the Senate. On January 5 , 2021, the registered voters in Georgia will head to cast their ballots in a pair of two senate races , one between Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock and the other between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff.

US district federal judge Leslie Gardner (blocks exclusion of thousands of Georgia voters) for the Middle District of Georgia sided with the voter registration group- Majority Forward and Gamaliel Warren Turner to challenge the board of elections who removed 4,185 registered voters from their rolls. She concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to win their claim as the actions of election board violated National Voter Registration Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Georgia is not lawfully entitled to exclude voters from the rolls less than 90 days before the elections without conducting proper enquiries to ensure their proper procedural exclusion from the voter rolls.

Judge Gardner is the sister of voting rights activist Stacey Abrams believe that the board’s decision to sustain challenges to voter’s eligibility risk marginalising thousands of voters. She said that the failure to grant an injunctive relief will result in eligible voters being denied their right to vote who would then exercise their constitutional right to vote being intimidated or discouraged from doing so or they will be forced to go to extraordinary lengths in such times surrounded by holiday season and the Covid-19 pandemic to prove their eligibility. Although, the injunction might interfere with the defendant’s role in managing the election, the harm to the voters if they are denied their right would be far greater.

True the Vote, a conservative group is commandeering this legal battle which worked with voters across all of Georgia’s 159 countries to question the eligibility of 364,000 voters. Tommy Roberts , a resident of Ben Hill County has challenged the eligibility of 328 registered voters based on data from the National Change of Address Registry, out of which the voting status of 152 voters is marked as ‘pending hearing’, Similarly, Ralph Russell , a resident in Muscogee county filed a challenge of 4,033 voters. This challenge was upheld by the county board which then said that these voters will only be allowed a provisional vote.

The Voter Registration Group argued that the challenges to the eligibility of 152 voters in Ben Hill County and 4,033 voters in Muscogee County are unlawfully sustained by the county boards are based on inaccurate, unreliable and inconclusive data which is ostensibly drawn from US Postal Service’s National Change of Address registry. The plaintiffs requested for three provisions from the federal judge including the request blocks the county boards of elections from removing voters from registration lists, preventing them from casting regular ballots and requiring them to cast provisional ballots or present additional eligibility.

The defendants are entitled to seek an emergency stay from the Eleventh Circuit. Voting has already started for the Georgia Senate elections and voting will culminate on December 5. After the general elections in November, Republicans will start the new Congress session holding 50 seats but if Warnock and Ossoff win these elections there will be a half and half split in the upper chamber. If this happens, the tie breaking vote would be cast by Vice President Kamala Harris.Federal Judge blocks exclusion of thousands of Georgia voters before runoff election of two Georgia counties namely Ben Hill County and Muscogee County

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