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Judge allows Georgia to remove inactive voters from registration list

People voting on U.S. Election Day, Photo Date: 11/7/2017 / Photo: Ralph Northam / Twitter /...
People voting on U.S. Election Day, Photo Date: 11/7/2017 / Photo: Ralph Northam / Twitter / (MGN)
Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 3:03 PM EST
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December 17, 2019

A federal judge in Georgia permitted the state on Monday to move forward with a planned purge of its voter rolls.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones denied an emergency request to stop Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from removing more than 120,000 voters off registration lists who may still live in the state but hadn't cast a ballot since before the 2012 presidential election.

Georgia is one of nine states that has a "use it or lose it" law in regards to voter registration.

The lawsuit was filed by Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams after she narrowly lost last year's Georgia governor's race amid concerns of voter suppression.

The voters being purged didn't respond to two notices sent by election officials, according to Raffensperger's office. Some of those notices returned as undeliverable.

The state is assuming that inaction means those voters moved to a different county or state. But Fair Fight Action argued that under current law, "such an inference may not be drawn unless the voter had 'no contact' with the state for at least nine years" — not seven.

"The disenfranchisement of voters that occurs when they are removed from the voter rolls — as will occur if the scheduled purge takes place — is amongst the severest burdens upon the right to vote that exist," the group said.

The purge will effectively make those voters unable to participate in elections unless they realize they've been removed and re-register.

Raffensperger announced in October that his office would conduct a "routine and legally required update" of its voter files. The secretary of state's office released a list of more than 313,000 voters whose registrations were subject to cancellation, which would shrink the state's voter rolls by 4%. In November, election officials mailed them a notice and gave them 30 days to respond to keep their registrations active.

Fair Fight Action accused the state of "conducting an imminent massive, illegal purge of voters from the rolls."

Another hearing in the case is set for Thursday.