Nearly 200,000 valid voters should be returned to the rolls in time for Georgia's twin elections that will decide partisan control of the Senate in five weeks, a new lawsuit argues.
The suit, filed Wednesday by three voting rights groups in federal court in Atlanta, alleges the Georgia secretary of state's office improperly removed 198,351 voters from the state's registration database last year — an error rate of 63 percent.
The Black Voters Matter Fund, the Transformative Justice Coalition and the Rainbow Push Coalition maintain that voters who hadn't moved were taken off the rolls because the state did not use the correct list to verify addresses. The suit also challenges the state's "use it or lose it" law, which requires people to vote in at least one federal election every four years or interact with a state election office in order to remain registered.
The lawsuit is based on a report released by the ACLU of Georgia in September. As with most potentially disenfranchising actions, it concluded, young, poor, urban and minority voters were the most affected by the apparent purge.
It is unclear how many, if any, re-registered in time for the November election. The voting rights groups have asked that all the voters be restored by Jan. 5. That is when the state will vote in one of the most impassioned and expensive runoff elections in modern congressional history. Both of the state's Senate seats will be contested, because on Election Day nobody received the 50 percent majority required by state law.
Republican incumbent David Perdue is seeking a second term against Democratic activist and documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff. And GOP Senate appointee Kelly Loeffler is seeking election in her own right against Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock. If Democrats win both races, they will effectively control the Senate, with 50 seats and the new vice president, Kamala Harris, available to break a tie.
At a news conference Wednesday, Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in the secretary of state's office, dismissed allegations of bad behavior by his office. "I'm going to go with no," he said when asked if nearly 200,000 voters had been unfairly purged, but he added: "Frankly, I've not seen or heard of this lawsuit yet."
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Sixteen liberal political and organizing groups are joining forces with Let America Vote — a democracy reform organization that fights big money and voter suppression — to create a coalition dedicated to getting all Americans access to the information they need to vote this November.
While many of these groups typically focus on other issues — like gun violence prevention, abortion rights and veterans' benefits — they are joining forces for the next two months as a part of the Save the Vote campaign in hopes of making voting safer and easier.
The coalition will share messaging and grassroots organizing efforts to battle misinformation and keep voters abreast of the work being done to guarantee the election is safe, secure and fair. The presumed hope is that will benefit like-minded voters, whose ballots will break solidly for Joe Biden and other Democrats.
"Extreme voter suppression combined with a global pandemic is making it uniquely difficult for people to vote, and know how to vote, in what will be the most consequential election of our lifetimes — an election where the literal future of democracy is on the ballot," Let America Vote President Tiffany Muller said in a statement.
Launched Wednesday, the campaign has broken down its work into three key categories:
- Countering misinformation, particularly President Trump's unfounded claims about the vote-by-mail system.
- Recruiting poll workers, absentee ballot collectors, voter registration volunteers and voter protection monitors, as well as returning absentee ballots.
- Providing voters in battleground states with details about how to vote safely during the Covid-19 crisis.
"This far-reaching coalition is stepping up to make sure we have safe, secure, accessible, and fair elections. That's the only way our democracy can deliver a government that is truly accountable to the people. Every American must have an equal voice," Muller said.
For a full list of organizations participating in the coalition, check here.
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