A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia decided on Friday not to block Georgia from removing nearly 100,000 individuals from the state’s voter rolls.
In October, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued a list of more than 310,000 voters (roughly 4% of Georgia’s registered voters) that he deemed “inactive.” These voters were to be purged from the state’s voter rolls if they did not contact election officials within 30 days.
Georgia state law defines inactive voters as those who have not participated in the previous two general elections and have not contacted voting officials within the previous five years. The state legislature extended the period to seven years in April, but argued that the change was not retroactive, and voters could be purged based on the five-year period.
Voter advocacy group Fair Fight petitioned for a preliminary injunction to block the purge of 98,000 of the voters who fell within the new seven-year time limit but were still marked for removal under the old five-year limit. In addition, Fair Fight argued that the aggressive purging of voters by the Republican-dominated state government of Georgia, which has removed more than 1.5 million voters from its rolls since 2012, violates the US Constitution.
In his opinion, Judge Steve C. Jones rejected Fair Fight’s arguments, saying that they were unlikely to succeed on their constitutional claim and that the decision to purge voters was improper for the federal court system to second guess. Jones said that as long as the state made “additional diligent and reasonable efforts” to contact the targeted individuals, there was no issue with the purge. In addition, Jones explained that requiring the affected voters to re-register after their years of no contact was an “ordinary and widespread burden” that didn’t rise to a level that would require judicial intervention. Jones also encouraged both parties to bring any further claims to state courts, which he said were “better equipped” to deal with issues of state voting laws than the federal court system.
Georgia is the second state to obtain judicial acquiescence for a mass voter purge in December, following Wisconsin earlier in the month.