Civil rights groups push to reopen registration in 6th District runoff

If you live in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District but didn’t get registered to vote in time for last week’s special election, you may still have a chance to vote in the runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

A coalition of civil rights groups have filed suit in federal court to compel the state to reopen voter registration for the runoff. The legal heft behind the effort comes from the Washington-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The committee, reviled by Secretary of State Brian Kemp as a “liberal group of lawyers from Washington, D.C.,” has filed numerous suits against the state over the past several years protesting purges of the voter roles, elimination of polling places and other voting matters they say suppress voter turnout.

The lawsuit filed last week in Atlanta claims the state violated federal law by not allowing voters to register within 30 days of the runoff, even if they were not registered for the special election. Plaintiffs in the suit include the state NAACP and Third Sector Development, a non-profit founded by Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.

“I’m not going to say that any case is a slam dunk,” said Julie Houk, another of the committee’s lawyers on the case. “We feel very confident that the law is on our side here.”

The group has asked for U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, to issue an emergency injunction reopening registration for the race. A hearing is set for next Thursday in Atlanta.

Will it make a difference in the June 20th runoff? Read this week's AJC Watchdog column for more.