A federal judge in Georgia who also happens to be the sister of Democratic operative Stacey Abrams has walked back a key decision that could affect thousands of voters in the upcoming Senate runoff elections.
District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner issued a new ruling Wednesday that means some 4,000 voters with questionable registrations could be forced to vote with provisional ballots, according to media reports.
Judge reverses decision
On Monday, Gardner had denied a request from boards of elections in Muscogee County and Ben Hill County to remove those voters from the rolls and make them cast provisional ballots, CBS News reported.
The counties had cited data from the U.S. Postal Service that they said showed changes in addresses, but Gardner sided with Democratic nonprofit group Majority Forward.
On Wednesday, she ruled that Muscogee County could require provisional ballots to be cast until the registrations are verified, Politico reported, even as she agreed with Democrats that data from the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) registry could not be used to determine eligibility.
Gardner also said that officials must apprise voters whose registrations are invalid before Jan. 6, according to Breitbart.
“The challenge to their eligibility will not be sustained absent specific evidence of ineligibility. Such specific evidence shall not include the appearance of a voter’s name or other information on the NCOA registry,” the judge said.
Refuses to recuse
The case is significant in light of next week’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia, and Gardner’s initial move attracted scrutiny, given her relationship with a top Democratic operative in the state. Gardner has refused to recuse herself from the case, though, calling her sister’s connection with it tangential at best, Politico notes.
But Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had a different view, accusing the judge of undermining the rule of law and questioning whether she was conflicted.
“That a judge would rule on case brought by a group heavily funded by her sister is very concerning,” Raffensperger said, according to Fox News.
His response was notable, given President Donald Trump’s own bruising criticism of Raffensperger’s handling of the disputed presidential race. Thousands of undiscovered ballots surfaced during recounts, but Democratic nominee Joe Biden was certified as the narrow winner in the Peach State, as Newsweek reported.
Raffensperger has warned political groups contemplating cheating in next week’s elections to think twice, including activist organizations that he says have shown interest in registering people from outside of the state to vote illegally.