A federal judge Monday night allowed Georgia to move ahead with a purge of over 300,000 voters deemed "inactive" by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, sparking outrage from rights advocates who accused the GOP of an illegal voter suppression effort ahead of the 2020 elections.
"Georgians should not lose their right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections, and Georgia's practice of removing voters who have declined to participate in recent elections violates the United States Constitution," said Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp, the former Georgia Secretary of State who was widely accused of spearheading a mass voter suppression scheme before the 2018 election.
"Voter purges pose a distinct threat to our democracy, causing disproportionate harm to the very voters who have long been disenfranchised: people of color, low-income voters, and those who move frequently."
—Shauntay Nelson, All Voting Is Local
Fair Fight Action filed a lawsuit Monday calling on the court to "step in and stop this illegal purge," but U.S. District Judge Steve Jones allowed it to proceed while noting that he could still order the reinstatement of voters removed from the rolls. Another court hearing on the purge is scheduled for Thursday.
The Georgia voter rolls are expected to shrink from 7.4 million to 7.1 million by Tuesday morning. According to Fair Fight Action, 120,561 Georgia voters are being removed from the rolls solely because they have decided not to participate in recent elections.
Alex Kotch, investigative reporter with Sludge, warned Georgia could remain a red state in 2020 "due to the GOP purposefully denying people the right to vote."
The Georgia voter purge comes just days after a judge ordered Wisconsin to remove more than 200,000 voters from the rolls in response to a lawsuit brought by the right-wing group Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
Wisconsin is set to purge 234,000 voters, 7% of electorate
Tonight Georgia is cancelling 300,000 registrations, 4% of electorate https://t.co/wOMypmPU12
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— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) December 16, 2019
In a statement late Monday, the advocacy group All Voting is Local raised alarm at the effort to "strip away the voting rights of 234,000 Wisconsinites."
"Voter purges pose a distinct threat to our democracy, causing disproportionate harm to the very voters who have long been disenfranchised: people of color, low-income voters, and those who move frequently," said Shauntay Nelson, Wisconsin state director of All Voting is Local. "This flawed ruling doesn't provide enough time or notice for voters to comply."
During a rally Monday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, condemned "Republican officials in Georgia and Wisconsin who are too cowardly to engage in free and fair elections."
"I say, get out of politics and get another job," Sanders said.
To Republican officials in Georgia and Wisconsin who are too cowardly to engage in free and fair elections, I say: get out of politics and get another job. pic.twitter.com/Jq2XLucvcV
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 17, 2019
In a tweet earlier Monday, Sanders wrote that he has run for office many times but has "never said to [himself], 'How can I make sure those who might vote against me can't participate in democracy?'"
"That's what Republicans are doing today," said Sanders. "It's cowardice and they won't get away with it."