Judge Who Is Stacey Abrams’ Sister Changes Previous Decision on Voter Challenges

A federal judge in Georgia ordered two counties to reverse a decision removing more than 4,000 voters from the rolls ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections. | Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, the sister of former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D-GA) and an appointee of former President Barack Obama, changed an order on Wednesday that she issued two days prior regarding the voting eligibility of 4,000 persons in a Georgia county.

On Monday, Gardner blocked challenges to voter eligibility in two Georgia counties — Muscogee County and Ben Hill County — ahead of Georgia’s runoff elections. The counties sought to require registered voters — about 4,000 in Muscogee and 125 in Ben Hill — to cast provisional ballots due to changes of address recorded with the U.S. Postal Service.

Provisional ballots are given to people whose voting eligibility is questioned or undetermined. The eligibility of such persons to vote is subsequently examined after their casting of provisional ballots

CBS reported on the initial challenge to the eligibility of some over 4,000 voter registrations in Muscogee :

[Muscogee resident] Ralph Russell filed a challenge to the eligibility of 4,033 registered voters to vote in the January 5 runoffs, claiming to have evidence they lived outside the state, again based on data from the National Change of Address Registry. The county board of elections upheld the challenge and said any of those voters were allowed only to cast a provisional ballot.

Some Democrats alleged that postal data is an unreliable indicator of a person leaving their local residence.

Gardner’s initial order ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by Majority Forward, a nonprofit organization run by former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign attorney Marc Elias. She ordered Muscogee and Ben Hill to not provide provisional ballots to the registered voters whose eligibility was challenged due to U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records.

Elias described Gardner’s original order as “victory over voter suppression.”

Gardner’s revision rescinds her previous order regarding Ben Hill while allowing Muscogee’s local officials to require registered voters with challenged eligibility to submit provisional ballots.

Gardner’s order included criteria for how the eligibility of registered voters casting provisional ballots is to be determined. She sided with Democrat characterizations of U.S. Postal Service data as an unreliable determinant of residency.

Gardner wrote in her order, “The challenge to their eligibility will not be sustained absent specific evidence of ineligibility. Such specific evidence shall not include the appearance of a voter’s name or other information on the NCOA registry.”

Registered voters who are later determined ineligible to vote, added Gardner, must be advised by phone and in writing by 5:00 p.m. Eastern on January 6.

Despite Gardner’s relation to Abrams — a figurehead of the Democrat political and related legal campaigns in Georgia — she refuses to recuse herself from the case.

Gardner described calls for her recusal based on a familial conflict of interest as “unsupported, irrational, and highly tenuous.” She dismissed challenges to her impartiality as  “mere speculation” and “unsupported by any facts.”

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