A federal judge, the sister of former Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Ga., refused to recuse herself from a high-profile election case and ruled Monday against the purging of more than 4,100 Georgia voters before the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoffs.
U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner found that Georgia's Muscogee and Ben Hill Counties improperly relied on unverified change-of-address data to invalidate 4,000 registrations in Muscogee County and 150 from Ben Hill County, per National Review.
The Muscogee board filed a motion earlier Monday requesting Gardner recuse herself from the case because of her relationship to Abrams, the Democrat candidate in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election.
Gardner declined, writing in her ruling that the court "finds no basis for recusal."
"An Order detailing the Court's reasoning is forthcoming," Gardner wrote.
Majority Forward filed suit Dec. 14 in response to a challenge to the voter registrations after a local voter found that the registrations seemed to match U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records. Democratic Party attorney Marc Elias led the Majority Forward's charge.
The voter, Ralph Russell, said he believed the postal data meant the voters had moved out of state. Democrats argued the data was not an adequate indicator that a voter had given up Georgia residence.
The Muscogee board backed Russell's motion 3-1 on Dec. 16 and decided voters on the list would have to vote by provisional ballot and present additional evidence of residency to vote.
"I believe that each of the individuals named ... as a result of registering their name and change of address to a location outside of Muscogee County, removed to another state with the intention of making the new state their residence," Russell told the county board. "Thus, each individual has lost their residence in Muscogee County, and consequently, each individual is ineligible to vote in Muscogee County.”
The Ben Hill County board voted 2-1 to endorse a challenge similar to Russell’s.
In writing that voters were not given adequate notice and because they fell under the type of systematic voter roll purging not allowed within 90 days of a federal election, Gardner found the voter removals appeared to violate federal law.
Elias praised the ruling as a "blow to GOP voter suppression."
"We continue to monitor how other Georgia counties respond to the suppression scheme," he said. "Where necessary, we will sue and we will win."
Abrams served in the Georgia State House of Representatives from 2007-2017. She is the founder of The New Georgia Project and also is affiliated with the voting group Fair Fight, both of which have been involved in litigation over voter rights challenges, per Fox News.
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