Following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones Monday, the number of registered voters in Georgia is about to be reduced by approximately 309,000 names.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), “By Tuesday morning, the number of registered voters in Georgia was set to shrink from 7.4 million to 7.1 million.”
Longstanding Georgia law requires voter registration to be canceled after voters fail to vote in elections for several years, one of nine states with similar requirements called “use it or lose it.” All states are bound by federal law to regularly update voter rolls, but Georgia’s law is among the most stringent in the nation.
The legal fight over the voter registration rolls in the state is not over, as a progressive voting rights group filed an emergency motion to stop the purge. The judge indicated the technology is in place for any deleted voter names to be restored, should developments warrant.
Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by allies of Democrat Stacey Abrams after her loss in the state’s gubernatorial election in 2018, is challenging the law.
According to AJC, Fair Fight said in federal court on Monday that the scheduled “cancellations target roughly 120,000 inactive voters who would otherwise be eligible to participate in elections but are being removed because they haven’t cast a ballot since at least 2012. The rest of the people on the cancellation list either moved from Georgia or mail sent to them by election officials was undeliverable.”
“Georgians should not lose their right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections,” said Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo. “Georgia’s practice of removing voters who have declined to participate in recent elections violates the United States Constitution.”
The group is suing the state over what they call voting obstacles that include registration cancellations, long lines, precinct closures, and rejected absentee ballots.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Georgia’s voter lists must be maintained for accuracy. “Proper list maintenance is not only required by long-standing laws but is also important in maintaining the integrity and smooth functioning of elections,” he said. “Georgia has registered nearly a half-million voters since the last election, clear proof that we are doing things to make it easy for people to vote.”
Judge Jones said he could still order the reinstatement of canceled voters’ names. Jones will reconsider the issue during a court hearing Thursday.
In his Monday order, Jones wrote: “It appears that any voter registration cancellations can be undone at a later date. The court’s ruling is based largely on defense counsel’s statement (at today’s hearing) that any voter registration that is canceled today can be restored within 24 to 48 hours.”
As reported by AJC, a new state law required election officials to notify registered voters by mail before cancellation, and to provide postage-paid postcards to return within 30 days to save their registration. About 4000 registrations were recently renewed and saved from cancellation by those and related efforts.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling that resulted from an Ohio case in 2018, established that states cannot cancel voter registrations based solely on inactivity. Election officials are required to also mail notifications before registrations are canceled, as Georgia officials did this year.
According to an analysis by AJC, the cancellation list does NOT “show racial disparities, with the number of black and white voters roughly matching their proportion of the state’s registered voters.”
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