Judge rules Georgia doesn’t have to immediately restore purged voters

A federal judge on Wednesday declined to force the state to immediately restore to voting rolls thousands of people who were removed last year.

Voting rights organizations, including the Black Voters Matter Fund, sued Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger earlier this month, challenging the removal of what they said were hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from Georgia’s rolls.

U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones said he would not grant the immediate restoration of voters to the rolls because they have had a year to reregister if they were removed incorrectly and, if the secretary of state’s office did reinstate them, it would cause confusion.

“Plaintiffs acknowledge that they do not know how many people on their list of cancelled registrations may have re-registered before December 7, 2020,” Jones wrote in his ruling. “Thus, the risk of dual registrations and voter confusion is high.”

Instead, Jones asked the voting rights organizations to work with the secretary of state to figure out why Georgians were incorrectly removed from the rolls.

Jones said that while attorneys for Black Voters Matter Fund showed Georgia’s process for removing people from the voting rolls may have led to mistakes, the removals were not discriminatory.

Lawyers for the Black Voters Matter Fund argued that the state removed tens of thousands of voters from the list because it believed they had moved out of their county or the state when, in fact, they had not. It also challenged a “use it or lose it” provision in state law that allows Georgia to purge voters who do not cast ballots for many years. That allowed the state to remove tens of thousands more voters, attorneys argued.

They wanted those who were purged returned to voter rolls.

Attorneys for the secretary of state’s office said the office followed all federal guidelines in updating voter registration rolls and, if there were issues with people being removed inappropriately, the plaintiffs had a year to bring their case.

In a press release, Raffensperger called the ruling a victory.

“This lawsuit from left-leaning groups — like the recent ones from the right — was based on conjecture by unqualified ‘experts’ drawn from sloppy analysis,” Raffensperger said. “This office abides by the law regardless of criticism and oversees fair and accurate elections.

Gerald Griggs, an attorney for the Black Voters Matter Fund, said Jones’ ruling underscores that there are issues with the way the secretary of state removes voters from the rolls.

“We stand ready to meet with the secretary of state to remedy the problem of improper purges from the voting rolls,” Griggs said. “The judge strongly encourages a meeting to resolve these issues. We await the secretary to set the meeting.”