The two counties sought to remove the voters “because their registrations appeared to match U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records.”
U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, Stacey Abrams’ sister, ruled against a voter purge in two Georgia counties before the January 5th runoff.
Here is some background in order to fully understand the ruling.
Muscogee County wanted to remove 4,000 voters. Ben Hill County wanted to purge 150 voters.
The two counties sought to remove the voters “because their registrations appeared to match U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records.” From Politico:
The evidence to challenge the 4,000 registrations in Muscogee County was particularly sparse. The challenge was lodged Dec. 14 by a local voter named Ralph Russell who alleged that he had compared evidence from publicly accessible voter registration databases to prove that these voters had moved out of Georgia.
“I believe that each of the individuals named … as a result of registering their name and change of address to a location outside of Muscogee County, removed to another state with the intention of making the new state their residence,” Russell told the county board. “Thus, each individual has lost their residence in Muscogee County, and consequently, each individual is ineligible to vote in Muscogee County.”
The Muscogee board met Dec. 16 and backed Russell’s motion 3-1, even though he didn’t attend the meeting and provided no additional evidence to support his challenge. Voters on Russell’s list, per the board, would be required to vote by provisional ballot and present additional evidence of residency to vote.
City Council member Tommy Roberts in Fitzgerald, GA, challenged the 150 voters in Ben Hill County. He “relied on change-of-address data.” The board in that county voted 2-1 in favor of Roberts.
Politico reported that “the board backed him despite evidence that the data could not be verified and would be inadmissible in court.”
The group Majority Forward sued because “postal data is not a reliable or conclusive indicator that a voter has given up their local residence.”
National Democratic Party attorney Marc Elias represents Majority Forward.
?BREAKING: In a blow to GOP voter suppression, Federal court ENJOINS Georgia counties from removing 4000 voters from registration lists and making them vote provisional ballots in upcoming run-off elections.
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) December 29, 2020
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 [NVRA] does not allow removing voters “unless the voter confirms in writing that he or she has moved outside of the county or does not respond to a notice and has not voted in two federal election cycles.”
A state can only remove voters 90 days before a federal election unless officials meet specific requirements such as the voter confirming “in writing that he or she has moved outside of the county or does not respond to a notice and has not voted in two federal election cycles.”
Gardner wrote (emphasis mine):
Here, it does not appear that the Boards received written confirmation from the Targeted Voters that they had changed their addresses. The Russell Notice does not indicate that any of the Targeted Voters provided written confirmation of their address changes. Moreover, the declarations filed by Targeted Voters Turner, Burson, Essix, Pfeiffer Stinetorf, Colon, and Williams show that that [sic] these voters did not provide Defendants written confirmation that they had changed their addresses. Thus, as Section 8(d)(1 (A) of the NVRA clearly states, in relevant part, that a “State shall not remove the name of a registrant from the official list of eligible voters in elections for Federal office on the ground that the registrant has changed residence unless the registrant . . . confirms in writing that the registrant has changed residence to a place outside the registrar’s jurisdiction in which the registrant is registered” and as there is evidence before the Court that the Targeted Voters did not provide such confirmation, there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits on Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated Section 8(d) of the NVRA.
Likewise, there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits regarding Plaintiffs’ Section 8(c) claim. As noted by the Eleventh Circuit, the 90 Day Provision of the NVRA limits “its reach to programs that ‘systemically’ remove voters from the voter rolls [but] permits removals based on individualized information at any time.” Arcia v. Fla. Sec’y of State, 772 F.3d 1335, 1346 (11th Cir. 2014)). “Individualized removals do not present the same risks as systematic removals because they are based on individual correspondence or rigorous individualized inquiry, leading to a smaller chance for mistakes.” N.C. State Conference of the NAACP v. The N.C. State Bd. of Elections, No. 1:16-CV-1274, at *11 (M.D. N.C. Nov. 4, 2016) (quoting Arcia, 772 F.3d at 1346 (11th Cir. 2014)). The Circuit noted that, “the 90 Day Provision strikes a careful balance: It permits systemic removal programs at any time except for the 90 days before an election because that is when the risk of disenfranchising eligible voters is the greatest.” Arcia, at 1346.
Georgia voters decide on their two U.S. senators on January 5th: Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler vs. Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock and Republican Sen. David Perdue vs. Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.
The Republicans received more votes than the Democrats in the special election on November 3rd in Ben Hill County while it is unclear in Muscogee County:
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.
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