Ah, the holiday season is here. While many become consumed in holiday shopping and planning, finals at school, fallen under the crunch of deadlines, etc., the State of Georgia has been just as busy preparing to execute yet another massive illegal voter purge that was slated to take place today, Mon., Dec. 16, 2019, which would have removed over 120,000 voters from the rolls due to inactivity. Additionally, the Secretary of State has changed tomorrow’s State Election Board meeting agenda, with the order of the agenda being the most significant change. The full updated agenda can be found here. The public is encouraged to meet at the State Election Board meeting at the Georgia State Capitol, Room 314, on Tue., Dec. 17, at 9 a.m., to voice their concerns in Georgia’s election laws and voter registration systems.
Sources told us today at 10:20 a.m. that Fair Fight Action filed an emergency motion in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia seeking to prevent the State of Georgia from conducting an imminent massive, illegal purge of voters from the rolls. As stated in the official amended document, the plaintiffs “hereby move for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction enjoining Defendant Brad Raffensperger, in his capacity as Georgia Secretary of State, from purging 120,561 voters from Georgia’s rolls on the basis of fewer than nine years of inactivity.”
Voter purges, at their core, should only serve to remove voters who have either passed away or have moved out of the state, making it a necessary process in keeping our voter rolls up to date. However, the State of Georgia has regularly used this practice to purge voters due to inactivity under its “use it or lose it” policy, thus successfully disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1.5 million Georgia voters were purged from the rolls from 2012 to 2016, with most of the voters removed due to voting inactivity. Georgia saw the largest illegal voter purge in U.S. history on July 1, 2017, when more than half a million people lost their right to vote because they did not vote in previous election cycles. On Oct. 30, 2019, Georgia released its list of another 313,000 names of people at risk of being purged. Over one-third of those voters are set to be purged due to inactivity under the “use it or lose it” policy. This cannot and should not be categorized as anything other than a mass disenfranchisement of voters.
Until his move into the Georgia governor’s mansion, these purges were conducted by then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was recently called by Judge Steve Jones to testify in the groundbreaking lawsuit Fair Fight Action et al. v. Raffensperger et al. As plaintiffs in this trial, Fair Fight seeks to fight against the barriers that keep many Georgians from accessing the polls in the first place, which oftentimes explains some voters’ inactivity (such as excessively long waits in lines, faulty voting machines, discriminatory registration practices such as exact match, to name a few). Among other claims, the plaintiffs challenge the “use it or lose it” purges as unconstitutional. The trial is currently in the end of its discovery phase and holds an anticipated trial date early next year.
House Bill 316, the Republication’s “Voting Package Bill” that was enacted in April 2019, specifically extends the number of years in which a voter can remain on the rolls without voting before they are deemed “inactive” from three to five years. Georgia’s current Secretary of State Raffensperger applauded passage of HB 316 and is now attempting to violate that very law.
As stated in Fair Fight’s motion, 120,561 Georgia voters are set to be removed from the rolls solely because they have chosen not to vote in recent elections. Under HB 316, however, the Secretary of State is prohibited from removing these voters for an additional two years. Thus, purging these voters would be illegal.
According to an official statement from Fair Fight’s Organizing Director Hillary Holley, the motion cites changes to Georgia election law under HB 316, describes the severe burden to the First Amendment right to vote caused by ‘use it or lose it’ purges, and asks United States District Court Judge Steve C. Jones to stop a purge of voters that is planned for this week.
The motion calls for an immediate hearing today and we will continue to report updates as this story develops. Sources informed us at 11:19 a.m. that Fair Fight’s litigation is presenting declarations from Georgians who have exercised their First Amendment right to not cast a ballot in recent elections, but whose right to vote should not be taken away. In addition, Fair Fight is presenting sworn testimony from the State’s own witnesses that demonstrates the illegality of this planned purge.
UPDATE (1:45 p.m.): Due to Fair Fight Action filing a temporary restraining order to stop the state’s illegal voter purge from happening tonight, United States District Court Judge Steve C. Jones has called an emergency hearing on Mon., Dec. 16, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. at 75 Ted Turner Dr. NW, Atlanta, Ga., 30303. Fair Fight Action is calling for those in the downtown Atlanta area to make their way to the courthouse to show that Georgians believe voters should not be purged for simply not voting.
UPDATE (7:30 p.m.): In the emergency hearing held on Mon., Dec. 16, which challenged the planned purge of 300,000 voters, the Secretary of State’s office said they were unable to stop the purge that was underway. However, the Secretary of State’s office said they will reinstate voters if they are ordered to do so. Proceedings will continue on Thurs., Dec. 19, at 2 p.m. at 75 Ted Turner Dr. NW, Atlanta, Ga., 30303. The courtroom will be open to the public and media, and Fair Fight Action is again encouraging the public to attend the hearing to show that Georgians do not support this voter purge.