Judge OKs Purge Of 300,000 Inactive Georgia Voter Registrations
A federal judge has ruled that Georgia can move forward with a planned purge of more than 300,000 inactive voter registrations Monday night.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to determine whether some of those registrations must be reinstated to the inactive voter list.
The 120,561 registrations set to be removed belong to Georgia voters who have had no contact with elections officials for at least seven years: three years of inactivity followed by non-voting in two federal election cycles and then a failure to respond to a notice mailed out by the secretary of state’s office.
The other swath of to-be-canceled registrations belong to those who have filed a change of address form or had election mail returned as undeliverable.
Lawyers for the voting rights group Fair Fight Action asked Jones Monday morning to block the removal of the no-contact inactive voters because of a change to the law ushered in with the passage of HB 316 earlier in this year.
Among other things, the law changed the amount of time a voter had before being declared inactive from three years to five years, making it an overall total of nine years of no contact with elections officials before a registration could be canceled.
Fair Fight lawyers argued that meant many of the registrations that would be purged could have more time before being removed.
Lawyers for the state said that the stopping or postponing part of the cancellation process would take time and require subsequent manual removal of voter registrations, and that if Jones ordered the no-contact voters to be reinstated to inactive status that could be done in about 24-48 hours.
The state also said that about 50,000 people on the no-contact voter registration list would be removable under the nine-year standard as well.
Jones said after a brief hearing Monday that the state should proceed with its removal, and a Thursday hearing would give enough time for him to make an informed decision about whether the no-contact voters should be added back to the inactive list.
Georgia elections officials have until Dec. 24 to undertake any list maintenance activities.
Thanks to a federal law prohibiting changes from taking place within 90 days of a federal election and several primary, general and runoff elections happening next year, the next time the state could make voter list maintenance changes would be in 2021.