The Georgian election headlines focus on President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to change the state in his favor, but plaintiffs in a new lawsuit say the real focus should be on the people who were struck off the electoral rolls before election day.
“We have not seen massive voter fraud, but we have definitely seen massive voter suppression,” said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and plaintiff in the lawsuit. “These people should not be denied their right to participate in this election,” LaTosha Brown said.
A complaint filed on Wednesday alleges that the state falsely cancelled 198,000 voter registrations because people mistakenly believed they had moved. With the runoff elections for the Senate only weeks away, the plaintiffs believe that a timely resolution of this voter issue is critical, as it could affect who takes control of the Senate in January.
News of unlawful purges first came out in September, when the ACLU issued a report. Greg Palast of the Palast Investigative Fund led the investigation and hired firms to cross-check a list of 313,243 citizens who were to be removed from Georgia’s voter rolls with the records of the postal service and the Advanced Address List Hygiene, an “industry standard for residential address verification. In the end, they found that 198,351 voters had had their registration deleted but had not moved.
Palast said they were filing the suit now because they had to wait 90 days after informing the Secretary of State of their results. The lawsuit accuses Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of violating the National Voter Registration Act by hiring an unlicensed contractor to create the voter list.
“We demand that these voters be put back on the list now, before the Senate runoff election,” Palast said.
In Georgia, a Senate candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the votes to be declared the winner. Since none of the candidates reached this threshold in either of the two Senate campaigns, a runoff election was scheduled for January 5 in both campaigns.
The Republican incumbents, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are struggling to keep their seats as Democratic challengers attempt to oust them from office and shift control of the Senate. If the Democratic challengers, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, can win their respective elections, there will be a 50-50 split of the partisans in the Senate. This gives the Democrats de facto control, because in the event of a stalemate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast the deciding vote.
Trump, who supports Loeffler and Perdue, put pressure on Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp to step in and demand that signatures be verified and the signed envelopes counted against the ballots. He also urged Kemp to outvote Raffensperger, who confirmed the November 20 election results, and his campaign filed a complaint for “massive electoral fraud.
To date, none of Trump’s lawsuits have moved the needle in the quashing of the election of President-elect Joe Biden. But Gerald Griggs, an attorney who is filing the suit for election fraud, is confident that this lawsuit will be successful. He called it “based on fact and law” and the evidence presented by Palast “will affect the race in the Senate”.
“We must ensure that we protect this most fundamental right at the birthplace of civil rights,” Griggs said.
In September, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs Palast, in a response to CNN, called Stacey Abrams a “Stacey Abrams villain” and rejected the “research” in the ACLU report of Georgia. Fuchs referred to a 2019 report by WSB television journalist Justin Grey in which he examined 30 houses in a West Atlanta neighborhood and found that all the houses were the homes of people who had either died or moved away. His survey focused on houses that were listed as “contactless,” indicating that they had not participated in elections, had not updated their information, or had not responded to mailings.
Raffensperger denied that the deletion of the entries was a “cleanup” and instead called it “list maintenance”, which is necessary to maintain the integrity of the election. The secretary of state also pointed to the increase in voter registrations to show that the state values an election with high turnout.
Supporters argued, however, that the deletion of names was an attempt to suppress voters and fought to get the names back on the electoral roll.
In 2019, Fair Fight Action, an organization founded by Stacy Abrams to deal with voter oppression, fought against the deletion of about 120,000 voters, and the state restored about 22,000 names. However, in Judge Steve Jones’ decision, he upheld the decision to remove nearly 100,000 names from voter rolls. Jones ruled that Fair Fight Action did not prove that the state’s decision to delete the registration of inactive voters violated the Constitution.
Barbara Arnwine, professor at Columbia University Law School and plaintiff in the suit filed on Wednesday, called the suit “absolutely critical” because voting rights are one of the few rights granted to citizens by the Constitution, with the exception of certain constitutional grounds.
“They have declared to the world that they want to participate in our democracy,” Arnwine said. “Then you are removing them for unlawful, deplorable reasons? Outrageous.”