US District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, sister of Stacey Abrams, ordered election officials in two Georgia counties to allow over 4,000 people cast their ballots in the senate runoff elections.
Election boards in Ben Hill County and Muscogee County attempted to force voters to prove their residency in order to be eligible to vote next Tuesday (January 5).
In her ruling, Judge Gardner said that to force so many people to prove their residency, effectively denying their access to the ballot, so close to the election would most likely be a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.
Muscogee County officials had challenged approximately 4,000 people’s residency, while Ben Hill County challenged over 150 voters. Texas-based conservative group True The Vote, orchestrated the challenges under the Georgia state law that allows any registered voter to challenge any other voter within the same county’s eligibility.
The group had announced on December 18 plans to bring residency challenges in all of Georgia’s 159 counties against a total of 364,000 voters using data from the US Postal Service.
Local election boards have the authority to see if the challenges are legitimate. Other counties, including Fulton and Cobb Counties have already rejected the challenges.
However, officials in Muscogee and Ben Hill counties found merit in the challenges, before Judge Gardner’s ruling. Without it, voters on the challenge list would’ve had to prove they are residents of Georgia, including those who’d already mailed in an absentee ballot.
Judge Gardner cited federal law that prohibits the removal of voters from county rolls within 90 days of an election.
Attorneys for the counties though, asked Judge Gardner to recuse herself because her sister Stacey Abrams had run as a Democrat for Georgia’s Governor in 2018 and established Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group credited with registering hundreds of thousands new voters across the state.
The Senate runoffs races have garnered national attention as Republican incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler go against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively. The races will determine party control in the US Senate.
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