Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said the office will work to comply with the order. “Brian Kemp swore an oath to uphold and defend Georgia law,” Broce said. “That is what he did, and that is what he will continue to do.”
Jill Boyd Myers, a plaintiff in the suit who bought a house in Sandy Springs two days after the original deadline, said she was ecstatic. “This just felt like a real prohibition” as a voter, she said.
Arguing on behalf of Kemp, Josiah Heidt, an assistant Georgia attorney general, told Batten that the law was intended to view runoffs as a continuation of the same election. So voters who qualified for the regular election were the same voters eligible to vote in the runoff.
Such a view, Heidt said, has been used for decades.
Batten didn’t strongly disagree. In fact, he said it seemed like a “fairly common legislative characterization … I don’t think it’s nonsensical.”
But arguing for the plaintiffs, Ira M. Feinberg said the National Voter Registration Act requires states to allow anyone to vote in a federal election if they register at least 30 days before that election. A runoff, he said, counts as an election unto itself under that rule and not as just a continuation of the previous vote.
The suit, filed by The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of five civil rights and voting rights organizations in addition to Boyd Myers, claims Georgia law cuts off voter registration for federal runoff elections two months earlier than what should be allowed.
Batten, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, held the hearing Thursday in Atlanta after the groups asked for an emergency injunction.
The 6th District race has become a nationally watched barometer on the early effect of Donald Trump’s presidency, with Democrats making a run at what has been considered a solidly GOP seat.
Democrat Jon Ossoff, among a field of 18 candidates, won 48 percent of the vote April 18, falling short of the necessary majority to claim victory outright.
He now faces Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who has made an effort to consolidate GOP support and got a fundraising visit last week from Trump.
After the ruling, Handel’s campaign released a statement calling the suit “partisan” and said it “should be seen for exactly what it is: A partisan attempt to change the rules in the middle of an election for a nakedly partisan outcome.”
Ossoff’s campaign cheered the ruling and released a statement from the candidate encouraging “all eligible voters to ensure that they are registered and make their voices heard on June 20th and in all elections, regardless of their party or political persuasion.”
It is unclear whether reopening registration will have a tangible effect on the runoff’s outcome.
An analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found last month that voter registration in the 6th District increased only 2.5 percent in the months since the presidential election. That tied for the fourth-lowest increase among Georgia's 14 congressional districts.
Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.
The date: June 20
The candidates: Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff
The district: The 6th Congressional District stretches from east Cobb County across north Fulton County to north DeKalb County.
HOW TO REGISTER TO VOTE IN THE 6TH DISTRICT
While a federal judged reopened voter registration in the 6th District through May 21, the order only applies to parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties that are within the district’s boundaries.
To find out if you live in the district or to register to vote:
- For online voter registration, go to the Secretary of State Office's website (www.sos.ga.gov) and, under the elections tab, click "Register to Vote."
- Text "GA" or "Georgia" to "2VOTE" (28683). This service is sponsored by the state.
- Download the free "GA SOS" app on your smartphone via iTunes or Google Play for Android.