Judge rejects bid to restore 200,000 voters who left Georgia on rolls before runoff

A federal judge denied a lawsuit Wednesday which four voter groups filed against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger seeking to reinstate the voter registrations of 200,000 people that no longer live in Georgia ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff.

The groups argued the voters removed from the rolls a year ago had their registrations canceled in part on the basis of inaccurate records.

Judge Steve C. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found that the groups lacked standing, ruling they had failed to satisfy a pre-suit notice requirement in the National Voter Registration Act.

The suit was brought by a coalition of minority voter advocacy groups, including Black Voters Matter Fund and the Rainbow Push Coalition.

 He acknowledged that “there may be discrepancies” in the records used to cancel the registrations in December 2019, but strongly encouraged the parties “to meet and determine the explanation, if any, for the alleged inaccuracies.”

According to the plaintiffs the voters had their registrations canceled because they had allegedly moved out of state, but “according to experts in the field, in all likelihood they had not.”

The suit claimed the action was a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

The Secretary of State’s Office said those cancelations were completed during routine list maintenance last year as required by state and federal law.

“This office abides by the law regardless of criticism and oversees fair and accurate elections open to all eligible voters – but only eligible Georgia voters,” Raffensperger said in a news release.

Before cancellation, each person was sent a letter instructing them to complete an attached postage-paid postcard if they wanted to stay registered to vote. The office says those persons had also ignored a similar letter four years earlier when their registration became inactive, although voting once in that time would have returned them to active status and prevented cancelation.

 The groups argued that the removal of the voters violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but Judge Jones wrote that while they proved that there were issues with the accuracy of the records used to cancel registrations, the process itself was not conducted using discriminatory practices.

“Plaintiffs have shown that Georgia’s list maintenance process may not be accurate in identifying voters who have actually moved. But they have not shown, or even alleged, that the process is applied differently to any class of voters,” Judge Jones wrote. “Here, there is no evidence at this stage that the list maintenance process is not uniformly applied.”

The judge also ruled that the process of returning the voters to the rolls would impose an undue burden on the Secretary of State’s Office as it currently administers an election. It would also create confusion around the January 5 Senate runoffs, he added.

“At this stage, requiring Defendant to (1) go through the list provided by Plaintiffs and attempt to determine which voters, if any, were improperly removed; (2) determine whether any improperly removed voters have already re-registered; and (3) restore removed voters who have not re-registered to active status – all before January 5, 2021- would impose a severe burden,” Judge Jones wrote.