Judge orders Georgia counties to halt voter purge ahead of Senate runoff

Two Georgia counties must reverse their decision to purge thousands from voter rolls in advance of the state’s 5 January runoff elections that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the US Senate.

Georgia federal judge Leslie Abrams Gardner said in an order filed late on Monday that these two counties appeared to have improperly relied on unverified change-of-address information to invalidate voter registrations, Reuters reported.

“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,” she said in the court order. This judge is the sister of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic activist who lost a race for Georgia governor in 2018.

Of the more than 4,000 registrations that officials tried to rescind, the vast majority were in Muscogee County. President-elect Joe Biden won this county during the November election. Another 150 were in Ben Hill county, which Donald Trump won with a sizable margin.

Almost 2.1 million people – more than 25% of Georgia’s registered voters – have voted in the Senate runoff election that started on 14 December. This race will decide whether Democrats control both houses of Congress.

In turn, the result will also influence the fate of Biden’s policy initiatives as a Republican-controlled Senate – even if held by a slim majority – would probably block his agenda. This also includes Biden’s ability to secure his desired cabinet appointees.

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are facing off against GOP incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively. Recent data from FiveThirtyEight places Warnock and Perdue slightly ahead of their opponents.

Warnock and Ossoff victories would mean that the Senate is divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. In situations where votes on legislation are evenly split, the tie-breaking vote would be cast by Kamala Harris, as vice-president.

The deeply significant runoff has prompted record-breaking fundraising. Ossoff and Warnock each raised more than $100m in a mere two months–surpassing their conservative opponents. Ossoff, who runs a media production business, raised more than $106m from 15 October to 16 December, per his campaign’s most recent financial report. Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta, took in slightly more than $103m.

Leaders of both parties have made campaign stops. Biden – the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992 – and Harris have campaigned in the state. Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, have also campaigned.

Reuters contributed to this report


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