A federal judge on Monday ordered election officials to review thousands of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted in Georgia’s close election for governor.
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order calls for a hotline for voters to check if their provisional ballots were counted, a review of voter registrations, and updated reports from the state government about why many voters were required to use provisional ballots.
The court decision comes as votes are still being counted in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams trails Kemp and would need to gain more than 20,000 additional votes to force a runoff election.
Totenberg said she’s providing “limited, modest” relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m.
Her ruling applies to provisional ballots, which were issued to as many as 27,000 Georgia voters because their registration or identification couldn’t be verified. Provisional ballots are usually only counted if voters prove their eligibility within three days of the election, a deadline that passed Friday.
The decision doesn’t say whether additional provisional ballots could be counted after election results are certified at the county level Tuesday.
“This ruling is a victory for the voters of Georgia because we are all stronger when every eligible voter is allowed to participate in our elections,” said Sara Henderson, executive director for Common Cause Georgia, which filed the lawsuit.
The Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing the judge’s order and considering its options, said spokeswoman Candice Broce.
Several voters told the judge in sworn statements that they thought they were registered but were turned away when they tried to vote. Only after repeated efforts were they given provisional ballots, and they said they still don’t know if their votes were counted.
The court order said there were more provisional ballots cast this election than normal, and that the voter registration system could be vulnerable to inaccuracies.
“The right to vote is fundamental, and no one should lose that right because of mistakes in the voter registration database,” said Myrna Perez of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
— Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.