The ruling blocking two counties from removing voters who appeared to have changed addresses from voter rolls struck a blow to the rule of law, according to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“This ruling is a direct attack on rule of law in Georgia and the integrity of elections in this state, and I will not stand for it,” the Republican said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Without even hearing from Muscogee County, a President Obama-appointed judge has decided to overturn the express will of Georgia law and the county elections officers around the state who follow it,” he added.
District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, an Obama appointee, issued the ruling late Monday.
She said plaintiffs who sued Ben Hill and Muscogee counties appeared correct when they asserted the county election boards violated the National Voter Registration Act and portions of the U.S. Constitution when moving forward with the removal of thousands of voters from voter rolls.
Boards in each county voted this month to approve removals, after challenges from fellow voters that relied on the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address system. The system, and supporting commercial databases, showed that voters moved within Georgia to a different county from which they’re registered or from Georgia to another state, the challengers alleged.
Gardner said the challenges come too close to the Jan. 5, 2021, Senate runoff elections and ruled that the counties must let the voters in question cast ballots in the runoffs.
Gardner is the sister of Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who ran for governor in 2018. After her loss, she began organizing voter rights efforts.
The lawsuit was brought by nonprofit Majority Forward.
According to Raffensperger’s office, Abrams’s organization Fair Fight donated $2.5 million to Senate Majority PAC, for which the plaintiff Majority Forward serves as the nonprofit arm. Senate Majority PAC is affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“That a judge would rule on case brought by a group heavily funded by her sister is very concerning,” Raffensperger said in a statement.
Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder and president of True the Vote, which backed the voter challenges, added: “Georgia voters have every reason to question a ruling that doesn’t follow the law but does deliver for her sister’s political agenda.”
Majority Forward and Fair Fight didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hours before the ruling, the Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration filed a motion calling on Gardner to recuse herself. Gardner wrote in a footnote in her order that the court “has reviewed the motion and finds no basis for recusal.” She said she would explain her reasoning in a forthcoming order.