More than 5,500 voters have so far been added to the rolls in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District after a federal judge ordered local counties to reopen registration through this past Sunday.
The total includes two types of voter: the newly registered, plus so-called “transfer” applications — already registered Georgia voters who moved into the district after March 20, when the registration period originally closed.
Several thousand additional applications are still pending, although all three counties that have areas that fall within the 6th District — Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton — have been working overtime to process them ahead of the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.
No problems have been reported with that work, which has been ongoing since May 4 when registration reopened.
“Everything is still going smoothly,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten gave 6th District residents until May 21 to register ahead of the runoff. His ruling came in answer to a lawsuit five civil rights and voting rights organizations filed over the way Georgia handles voter registrations ahead of federal runoff elections, which they say is cut off too quickly.
The suit is ongoing. In the interim, however, the groups made an all-out push over the past two weeks to sign up additional voters in the 6th District. They set up booths at local high schools and in front of grocery stores, and they went door to door, with some of the groups believing there could be tens of thousands of people who are eligible but not on the rolls.
That push was made harder by the fact that it’s already a highly motivated — and registered — district. According to a recent analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the 6th likely has a lower percentage of unregistered voting-age residents (those 18 years and older) living in it than any of the state’s other congressional districts.
“We are absolutely ecstatic so many people have taken advantage of the opportunity to register to vote following our victory in the courts,” said Raymond Partolan with Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta, one of five organizations involved in the suit.
Efforts by his group and the others involved in the suit are now expected to turn to encouraging voters to actually get out and vote. Absentee voting by mail for the runoff has already started. In-person early voting begins May 30 in all three counties.
“Registering to vote is only the first step in the civic engagement process,” Partolan said. “It is equally if not more important to go to the polls to vote.”
The 6th District already boasts more than 521,000 registered voters. The impact of several thousand more is unclear, but it has the potential to swing a race that polling suggests is separated by only a few percentage points and within the margin of error for either candidate.
“It’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” GOP strategist Chip Lake said. But, he added, “we won’t know until the votes are counted and the dust is settled and we can have a definite record-by-record look at who voted.”
Before Batten’s ruling reopened registration, 12,456 people had registered in the 6th District between last year’s presidential election and March 20.
Local election officials said Monday that they continue to work on processing applications and are trying to get through them as quickly as possible.
In Cobb County, where officials had started with a backlog of more than 17,000 applications, Janine Eveler, the elections director, has added a few temporary workers who will also work weekends as needed.
Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron has had to process 19,200 applications. “We should be done processing those by Friday,” he said. “We have already had temporary staff on board because we have had three elections so far this year.”
DeKalb County Elections Director Maxine Daniels said she had more than 4,000 applications still on hand, “but we process 1,500 per day, so we are on track to complete all of our applications by Friday,” she said.
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