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Court bounces Abrams Suit against Voter Purges
Shunts Case to GOP-Controlled State Courts

In Atlanta Friday, Federal Judge Steve Jones ruled against Stacey Abrams’ organization Fair Fight in its suit to restore nearly 100,000 Georgians to the voter rolls. It turns out that Abrams’ attorneys were not in a fair fight against this federal judge who refused to even consider if the purge would cause “irreparable harm” or “the public interest would support the issuance of a preliminary injunction.”

Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Ratffensperger, was using Kris Kobach’s favorite method of vote theft, what we call, “Purge by Postcard.” Under the guise of “voter list maintenance,” Georgia sent out postcards that look like cheap junk mail — see one at the link here. When a voter fails to return the card, they lose their vote.

Yes, the cancelled voter can re-register. But, as we have uncovered in our film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, most people don’t know they were pulled from the list until it’s too late.

Here, investigative reporter Greg Palast explains Purge by Postcard:

Judge Jones made the decision not to restore these Georgians to the voter rolls, citing jurisdictional issues, and called on Fair Fight to bring its case in state court where GOP appointed judges predominate. Judge Jones did, however, express concern that the state take “additional diligent and reasonable efforts (through notices on the Secretary of State’s website and press releases) to inform the general public.”

Palast, who has investigated Georgia voter purges for Rolling Stone and others, said, “It’s ludicrous for the judge to say the problem is solved by sticking this attack on voting rights on a website; as if every Georgia daily checks the website of the Secretary of State.”

The Court also ruled that Fair Fight did not do enough to prove that the postcard purge was unconstitutional and unfair. However, Judge Stevens did not give Fair Fight a chance to present expert testimony that the purge list was almost entirely erroneous and biased against low-income and younger voters.

Judge Jones cited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in Crawford v. Marion Cty. Election Bd., in which the Court allowed Indiana to force voters to obtain photo voter ID if they did not have a current drivers’ license.

The now-deceased Justice ruled that “Ordinary and widespread burdens, such as those requiring nominal effort of everyone, are not severe.” Lawyers representing the low-income plaintiffs complained that the average county office where the ID could be obtained was 17 miles from the typical resident, a major burden for the poor. But Scalia ruled that, “Seventeen miles is seventeen miles for the rich and the poor.”

Really? Scalia, we discovered, drove a BMW which he (or his chauffeur) could cover 17 miles in a few air-conditioned minutes. However, the plaintiffs noted that those seeking the voter ID by definition did not have drivers licenses. The average trip required three busses in each direction and a full day off from work.

This comic from our vote guide Steal Back Your Vote (available for FREE download) explains it all.

In a statement, Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo said. “We are exploring additional legal options to compel the Secretary of State to follow House Bill 316,” passed this year after the scandal of mass, wrongful purges of over half a million Georgians before the November 2018 gubernatorial election.”

In that race, Abrams lost by a few thousand votes to Brian Kemp who, as Secretary of State, had removed over half a million voters from the rolls. The purge list, obtained by the Palast Investigative Fund in its lawsuit against Kemp, was reviewed by Palast Fund experts name by name. The Palast Fund announced that Kemp has wrongly removed 340,134 voters — a biased purge which undoubtedly elected Kemp governor.

The Palast Fund experts have now been retained by Fair Fight for its litigation against voter purges. Fair Fight is preparing to provide updates of the original investigative review of the purges by the Palast team to a separately filed action.

The Court also noted that “in light of the immediacy of the situation,” it is within the authority of the Secretary of State to return any cancelled voters. The likelihood of the Republican Secretary of State returning these voters to the rolls is nonexistent.

Zach D Roberts is an investigative photojournalist who covers far-right extremism and voter suppression in America. He covered the Unite the Right Rally in Chalottesville and his work there helped put four white extremists in jail. He co-produced Greg Palast's films The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Vigilantes, Inc: America’s Vote Suppression Hitmen (out Fall 2024). Roberts is a Palast Investigative Fund Fellow and Puffin artist grant recipient.

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