Voter purge could be illegal 90 days before an election – Republicans are trying anyway


(Bloomberg) — A series of last-minute eligibility challenges for tens of thousands of mostly Democratic voters by Donald Trump acolytes threatens to violate federal law and threaten vote counting in US midterm elections in key states like Georgia to complicate.

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Many of those efforts — including one backed by former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne to knock 37,500 voters off the list in a Democratic suburb of Atlanta — have sprung from the 90-day freeze. of voter purges under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

At the end of August, more than 65,000 voter registrations were challenged in several Georgia counties, including the most Democratic — far more than the 11,000 ballot ballot that President Joe Biden won there in 2020.

That, in addition to challenges in Iowa, Michigan, Florida and Texas, has prompted New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice and the Campaign Legal Center to warn Georgia officials that it would be illegal to keep voter registrations so close to the mid-term. to cancel the November elections. Voting rights groups consider a legal challenge.

Georgia’s massive voter challenges are allowed under a 2021 state law enacted after Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud led to his defeat. That law allows anyone to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and also allows the state to take over local election councils that have trouble managing elections or counting votes.

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If voter registration challenges continue within the 53 days remaining before the midterm elections, it could lead to a chaotic election day in a state critical to determining which party controls the US Senate. Voters can submit their vote only to find that they either cannot vote or must cast a preliminary vote which can still be rejected.

Georgia has been the epicenter of Trump’s efforts to undermine the election since he lost the state in 2020. Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, opposed Trump’s attempts to reverse his loss, but supported the 2021 bill.

Mike Hassinger, a spokesperson for Raffensperger, acknowledged that federal law prohibits systematic purges of voter records within 90 days of an election, but said people who are no longer allowed to vote could still be removed on a case-by-case basis.

“The assessment and hearing process can be a burden on provincial election officials, especially when there are a myriad of challenges,” he said. “However, county election officials must continue to follow both Georgian and federal law.”

Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said voters whose registration has been challenged will receive different outcomes depending on their county.

“The provinces are not getting proper guidance from the state on how to tackle these massive challenges,” she said.

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Gwinnett County, which had Biden with 58.4% of the vote in 2020, has seen the most challenges from VoterGA, a group backed by Flynn and Byrne. Voter registration challenges have also cropped up in four other major, Democratic metropolitan Atlanta states, as well as in the Democratic province that includes Savannah and a handful of smaller, Republican counties.

“The intent of the project is to remove invalid voter lists — invalid voters,” said Garland Favorito, co-founder of VoterGA.

Under the rules established by the federal law of 1993, local election officials typically clear voter rolls beginning in January after an election year to avoid accidentally canceling a valid registration just before the vote begins.

In Georgia, the process can take as long as nine years, as voters are only marked as inactive after failing to vote in two consecutive elections and responding to a postcard sent by election officials, then only canceling if they are not responsive to another four years.

Sean Morales-Doyle, acting director of the voting rights program at the Brennan Center, said the mandatory 90-day freeze protects voters’ rights to correct mistakes before Election Day. He said the VoterGA and other challenges are based on unreliable data. The Brennan Center and the Campaign Legal Center have warned counties not to remove voters so close to Election Day.

“You can’t get around that protection by letting a vigilante decide that they’re the ones to present the evidence and face the challenges,” Morales-Doyle said.

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In a Bind

Despite the warnings, Forsyth County, where Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one, kicked 95 of the 211 challenged voters off the list last week.

Officials are stuck if they don’t respond to the challenges. Under the same 2021 law, the state election commission can launch a performance review of the provincial election offices if state lawmakers from the area complain that it is not being properly managed. That process could lead to the state administration, led by a Kemp appointee, taking over a local election office.

Gwinnett County had to assign 10 staffers to sift through eight boxes of challenges that arrived at the board of directors on Aug. 29.

In northwestern Georgia’s Chattooga province, election officials refused to consider a request to kick off every registered voter.

In Iowa, Joel Miller, the Linn County accountant and Democratic candidate for Secretary of State of Iowa, also faced challenges. Many of the complaints seem to be about people who have moved and who would have been taken off the lists anyway from January for being inactive, he said.

“They’re actually creating a lot of work for nothing,” Miller said. “If I spent 10 minutes per challenge, it would take me three days to go through all these things.”

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