Judge rejects another election lawsuit by Georgia U.S. senators

A federal judge Friday rejected a request by Georgia’s two U.S. senators to segregate ballots cast by newly registered voters in the Jan. 5 runoff election.

Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and other plaintiffs said hundreds of people newly registered to vote in Georgia have previously voted in the November general election in another state. They said that potentially violated federal laws against double voting - a contention disputed by Georgia officials.

The senators asked U.S. District Court Judge Lisa G. Wood to order election officials to segregate tens of thousands of ballots that might be cast by voters who had registered since the November election so they could be investigated later.

Wood rejected the request. Echoing judges in other recent election lawsuits, she said the plaintiffs had not provided enough evidence of specific harm to have standing to bring the lawsuit. She also worried about changing the rules in the middle of the election.

The lawsuit comes amid intense national interest in the Georgia runoff, which will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Some Georgia officials have expressed concern that people will seek to move here temporarily to vote in the election, then move back to their state of residence – a move that would be illegal.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said he will prosecute anyone who attempts to do so, and his office is investigating a Florida attorney who said he planned to move to Georgia temporarily to vote, and encouraged fellow Republicans to do so.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by the senators, the Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and several state residents. It says Raffensperger, the State Election Board and the election boards of Glynn and Chatham counties have instituted no safeguards to prevent new residents from casting illegal ballots. And it said hundreds of people potentially have already voted in the runoff who might have voted in U.S. Senate races in other states in November.

They said that so far, 978 people had voted in the runoff who voted in another state in the November election. Of those, 425 voted in a state that had a U.S. Senate election in November. But even if that were illegal, when questioned by the judge, lawyers bringing the suit could not explain how they would prove that the 425 voted in the U.S. Senate races in both states.

Wood’s decision was the latest defeat of an election lawsuit brought by Georgia Republicans.

On Thursday a U.S. District Court judge in Atlanta dismissed their lawsuit that sought more scrutiny of signature matching for absentee ballots for the runoff. Also Thursday, a federal judge in Augusta rejected a Twelfth Congressional District Republican Committee lawsuit that, among other things, sought to eliminate the use of absentee ballot drop boxes in Georgia.