Despite concerns of ballot fraud and election irregularities in Georgia, some courts and officials have remained blind to the facts and obtuse to how their handling of those allegations is perceived by the public.
Most recently, a federal judge blocked two counties in Georgia from removing voters from the rolls who allegedly had moved out of the county and were no longer eligible to participate in elections, The Hill reported.
The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, is the sister of failed 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has been an outspoken advocate in favor of more voter registrations and in opposition to what she claims are acts of voter suppression — such as removing allegedly ineligible voters from the rolls.
According to Politico, the case stemmed from the efforts of two registered voters in Ben Hill and Muscogee County to inform their county election boards that, based on a comparison of publicly available voter roll information and the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address registry, more than 4,000 voters in those two counties appeared to have moved and were no longer eligible to vote.
Both county boards had voted to start the process to remove the allegedly ineligible voters from the rolls ahead of the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections. This prompted a lawsuit filed by a Democratic Party-affiliated group known as Majority Forward, which said the USPS registry was inaccurate and unreliable and that the removal of any voters based on that information amounted to voter suppression and a violation of their right to vote.
Judge Gardner agreed with the Democratic plaintiffs and in an 11-page order blocked the counties from removing any “targeted voters” from the rolls, allowed those voters to cast regular ballots instead of provisional ones, and blocked the counties from requiring the voters to prove their residency to remain on the rolls as eligible voters.
In issuing the temporary restraining order against the two counties, Gardner determined that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their arguments, namely that the removal of the targeted voters from the rolls violated the National Voter Registration Act and their right to vote, as well as that the targeted voters would be “irreparably harmed” if made to vote with a provisional ballot instead of a regular one.
Refuses to recuse herself
Politico noted that the familial relationship between Gardner and Abrams was raised as an issue by the Muscogee County board and served as the basis for a request that the judge recuse herself over the conflict of interest.
That conflict of interest was made readily apparent in the nine-page motion that noted how Abrams’ own Fair Fight organization was involved in similar litigation in another part of the state, with both cases featuring the same lead attorney, Marc Elias. The motion pointed out that the ruling by Gardner would likely benefit Abrams and impact the Fair Fight litigation.
Gardner, however, acknowledged the motion for recusal and declined to step aside from the case. “The Court has reviewed the motion and finds no basis for recusal. An Order detailing the Court’s reasoning is forthcoming,” she said, according to Politico.
This ruling is a slap in the face for those who insist upon the integrity of elections and voter registration rolls, not to mention those who demand that public officials avoid obvious conflicts of interest.
This case will likely be appealed and a higher court will have its say over the judge’s refusal to recuse herself and her order that blocked counties from removing ineligible voters from the registration rolls.