A federal judge has ordered two counties in Georgia to reverse course on removing thousands of individuals from voter rolls ahead of the state's Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.
The judge, Leslie Abrams Gardner — who is the sister of former Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams, a prominent ally of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden — issued the ruling Monday, concluding the counties relied on unverified change-of-address data to proceed with the action.
"Defendants are enjoined from removing any challenged voters in Ben Hill and Muscogee Counties from the registration lists on the basis of National Change of Address data," Gardner wrote in the order.
Politico reported that the majority of the registrations officials were seeking to rescind, about 4,000, came from Muscogee County, where Biden claimed an easy victory, while an additional 150 registrations were from Ben Hill County, where President Trump won by a sizable margin.
The number of registrations could prove significant in the hotly contested state where, in November, Biden defeated Trump by just under 12,000 votes and Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were unable to accrue the majority needed for victory and avoid runoff elections.
The elections boards in each of the counties had approved motions filed by local voters claiming the registrations should be removed based on data from the United States Postal Service's National Change of Address database that allegedly showed the individuals had moved out of the county.
In her Monday order, Gardner ruled that the evidence in each case was not conclusive enough to support their removal and noted that the removals may have violated federal law because the voters were not given proper notice as is required within 90 days of a federal election.
Earlier on Monday, the Muscogee County elections board filed a motion requesting Gardner's recusal from the case given her connection to Abrams, but the request was denied.
Abrams, after losing her run for governor in 2018, has become a vocal proponent of increasing voter registration in the state. Earlier this month, the Georgia secretary of state's office announced it had launched an investigation into the New Georgia Project, a third-party registration group founded by Abrams, for "repeatedly and aggressively" seeking to register "ineligible, out-of-state, or deceased voters" ahead of the runoff elections.
In the motion, lawyers for the board described Abrams as "a Georgia politician and voting rights activist who was the Democratic candidate in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election and has since engaged in various highly publicized efforts to increase voter registration and turnout for the 2020 general election in Georgia."
This week, during an interview on CNN, Abrams charged that "Republicans do not know how to win without voter suppression as one of their tools."