Voter Purge May Be Illegal 90 Days Before Election – Republicans Are Trying Anyway

Voter Purge May Be Illegal 90 Days Before Election – Republicans Are Trying Anyway

(Bloomberg) — A series of last-minute challenges to the eligibility of tens of thousands of mostly Democratic voters by associates of Donald Trump risk violating federal law and threaten to complicate the counting of votes in the U.S. midterm elections in key states such as Georgia.

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Many of those efforts — including one championed by former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne to throw 37,500 voters off the rolls in a Democratic suburb of Atlanta — sprung up during the 90’s freeze. days. voter purges under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993;

As of late August, more than 65,000 voter registrations have been contested in several Georgia counties, including the most Democratic — far more than the 11,000-vote margin President Joe Biden won there in 2020.

That, along with challenges in Iowa, Michigan, Florida and Texas, prompted the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and the Campaign Legal Center to warn Georgia officials that canceling any voter registrations near the midterms of November would be illegal. Voting rights groups are considering a legal challenge.

Mass voter challenges in Georgia are allowed under a 2021 state law enacted after Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that widespread voter fraud led to his defeat. This law allows anyone to challenge an unlimited number of voters and also allows the state to take over local election boards that have problems managing elections or counting votes.

If voter registration challenges continue in 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 U.S. Senate. Voters could submit ballots only to find they either cannot vote or must cast a provisional ballot that could be rejected.

Georgia has been the focus of Trump’s efforts to undermine the election since he lost the state in 2020. Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, have opposed Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss, but they supported the 2021 law.

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

“The challenge review and hearing process can be taxing on county election officials, especially if there are a large number of challenges,” he said. “However, county election officials must continue to follow both Georgia and federal law.”

Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said voters whose registration was challenged will face different results depending on their county.

“Counties are not getting proper guidance from the state on how to handle these massive challenges,” he said.

Gwinnett County, which Biden carried with 58.4% of the vote in 2020, saw the most challenges from VoterGA, a group backed by Flynn and Byrne. Voter registration challenges also appeared in four other large, Democratic metro Atlanta counties, as well as the Democratic county that includes Savannah and some smaller, Republican counties.

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

Under rules set by a 1993 federal law, local election officials typically purge voter rolls beginning in January after an election year to avoid accidentally canceling a valid registration just before voting begins.

In Georgia, the process can take up to nine years, as voters are classified as inactive only after they fail to vote in two consecutive elections and do not respond to a postal card sent by election officials, and are then invalidated only if they are not responsive for another four years.

Sean Morales-Doyle, associate director of the voting rights program at the Brennan Center, said the mandatory 90-day freeze protects voters’ rights to correct any mistakes before Election Day. He said VoterGA and other challenges are based on unreliable data. The Brennan Center and the Campaign Legal Center have warned counties against turning away voters close to Election Day.

“You can’t get around that protection by having a vigilante citizen who decides he’s going to be the one to present the evidence and make the challenges,” Morales-Doyle said.

In a Bind

Despite the warnings, Forsyth County, where Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one, disqualified 95 of the 211 contested voters last week.

Officials are in a bind if they don’t respond to the challenges. Under the same 2021 law, the State Board of Elections can launch a review of the performance of county election offices if state lawmakers from the area complain that it is not being conducted properly. That process could lead to the state board, which is led by a Kemp appointee, taking on a locally elected office.

Gwinnett County had to assign 10 officials to review eight challenge boxes that arrived at the board of elections on Aug. 29.

In Northwest Georgia’s Chattooga County, election officials refused to consider a request to initiate every registered voter.

In Iowa, Joel Miller, the Linn County auditor and the Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of state, also faced challenges. Many of the complaints appear to involve people who were removed and would have been removed from the rolls starting in January anyway because they were inactive, he said.

“They’re making a lot of work about nothing, really,” Miller said. “If I spend 10 minutes per challenge, it would take me three days to get through all of them.”

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