A federal judge just ruled that the state of Georgia must extend their voter registration deadline until May 21st for the June 20th runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
Last month, multiple civil rights groups sued the state of Georgia for violating the National Voter Registration Act, which stipulates that “States must set a voter registration cutoff for federal elections of no more than 30 days before the election.”
The state attempted to claim that the June 20th runoff was simply a continuation of the April 18th jungle primary. As such, they argued that those who were not registered by March 22nd could not vote in the runoff. Per today’s judgment, this would be a violation of the National Voter Registration Act, which clearly states that runoff elections are separate elections, and the 30-day rule still applies.
The judge who ruled on the case is U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush. Batten entered a preliminary injunction forcing Georgia to extend its voter registration deadline, citing that “numerous voters” would suffer “substantial and irreparable harm” if they were not able to vote.
The state argued that “extending the deadline would interrupt the election process and force the state to hire temporary workers to process a backlog of voter registration applications.” They seemed to miss the irony that voter suppression also “interrupts the election process.”
Judge Batten responded to Georgia’s complaint, saying, “though not insignificant, [those burdens] do not outweigh the all-but-certain harm Plaintiffs will suffer absent an injunction.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, a group that brought forth the lawsuit, said:
“Today’s decision extending the voter registration deadline helps ensure that eligible voters will be able to participate in the upcoming runoff election, and in all future runoff elections for federal office. States like Georgia must stop taking action to suppress the rights of voters.”
Jon Ossoff advanced to the June 20th runoff with 48.1% of the vote. Dragged down by Trump’s dismal approval ratings, even traditionally conservative districts like Georgia’s 6th have started to swing to the left. Republicans fear that by allowing more people to register, it could hurt their chances in the runoff.
The state of Georgia may have tried to suppress voter rights, but per this ruling, they might actually have to win an election fairly.
Brian Tyler Cohen is a political writer, actor, and comedy sketch director. He graduated from Lehigh University with a dual degree in English and Business. He currently lives in Los Angeles.