A federal judge who is the sister of former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams has rolled back an earlier decision and agreed to allow a Georgia county to require some voters to cast provisional ballots, Politico reported Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner issued an injunction shortly before midnight Wednesday, Politico reported. The injunction replaces her previous restraining order that had prevented Muscogee County from requiring the more than 4,000 voters who faced eligibility challenges to cast provisional ballots.
Gardner’s decision comes just days before the two Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia, which will decide control of the Senate.
The eligibility challenges arose based on data from the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address registry, which Democrats have argued is unverified and unreliable. Although Gardner’s order allows the county to require that those voters cast provisional ballots, it prohibits eligibility challenges from being upheld solely based on data from the change of address registry, according to the report.
Muscogee County is also required to inform voters when their eligibility has been challenged in order to allow them to provide evidence that they are an eligible voter.
Republicans and Muscogee County officials called on Gardner to recuse herself from the case because of her sister’s activism registering voters and campaigning to repeal laws that she believes amount to voter suppression. (RELATED: Stacey Abrams Suggests Republicans Don’t Know How To Win Elections ‘Without Voter Suppression’)
“Stacey Abrams sister is the judge… nothing shady at all here,” Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter Wednesday. “If it were reversed the Democrats would be screaming for recusal etc. but the GOP won’t because they’re weak.”
Judge blocks voter purge in 2 Georgia counties!
Stacey Abrams sister is the judge… nothing shady at all here. If it were reversed the Democrats would be screaming for recusal etc. but the GOP won’t because they’re weak. https://t.co/CBaQODkv8I
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 30, 2020
The Muscogee County Board of Elections argued in their motion that Gardner should recuse herself because Abrams “engaged in various highly-publicized efforts to increase voter registration and turnout.” Gardner issued a 7-page rebuttal arguing that the motion for her recusal contained “unsupported, irrational, and highly tenuous speculation.”
“One can only assume that the argument is something to the effect that if my sister is actively engaged in a cause, I cannot
be impartial,” Gardner wrote. “This argument is mere speculation, unsupported by any facts that would support a finding of partiality.”
The initial lawsuit was filed by the Democratic nonprofit group Majority Forward. The lawsuit alleges that Muscogee and Ben Hill counties violated the National Voter Registration Act when they challenged voters’ eligibility, but lawyers for the counties argued that they were not in violation of the act because the voters were allowed to remain on the rolls.