US judge orders two Georgia counties to halt voter purge ahead of Senate run-off

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – A federal judge on Monday (Dec 28) ordered two Georgia counties to reverse a decision removing thousands of voters from the rolls ahead of Jan 5 run-off elections that will determine which political party controls the US Senate.

The counties seemed to have improperly relied on unverified change-of-address data to invalidate registrations, Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner said in her order filed late on Monday in the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

“Defendants are enjoined from removing any challenged voters in Ben Hill and Muscogee Counties from the registration lists on the basis of National Change of Address data,” Judge Gardner wrote in the order.

The judge is the sister of Democratic activist Stacey Abrams, who lost a race for Georgia governor in 2018.

The bulk of the registrations that the counties sought to rescind, more than 4,000 of them, were in Muscogee County, which US President-elect Joe Biden won handily in November, Politico reported.

An additional 150 were from Ben Hill County, which President Donald Trump won by a wide margin, the report added.

Nearly 2.1 million people have cast ballots in the US.

The Senate run-off election in Georgia will determine whether Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the fate of Mr Biden’s agenda, according to state data published on Thursday.

The runoffs pit Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Mr Jon Ossoff against Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and Mr David Perdue, respectively.

If Republicans win one or both Senate seats in Georgia, they will retain a slim majority in the chamber and can block Mr Biden’s legislative goals and judicial nominees.

If Democrats win both, the chamber will be split 50-50, giving the tie-breaking vote to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

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