Civil Rights Group Challenges Georgia House Race Registration Deadline

Apr 21, 2017

A coalition of civil rights groups is challenging a Georgia law that doesn't allow new voters to register before the closely watched runoff election in the 6th Congressional District.

The Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law filed a federal lawsuit Thursday in Atlanta on behalf of the groups.

The registration deadline was March 20.

Anyone not registered by that date can't vote in the June 20 runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, the top two vote-getters in Tuesday's 18-candidate election. The lawsuit says that violates federal law.

“This lawsuit is necessary in order to provide the people of Georgia with the full protections of the federal law,” said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a statement. “Cutting off the registration period as Georgia does before a runoff election makes no sense, and deprives thousands of Georgians of the right to exercise their franchise.”

Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act states that a voter registration application must be submitted 30 days prior to the date of a federal election. The NVRA also says that a state can set a voter registration deadline for federal elections shorter than 30 days, but cannot set a longer deadline.

Candice Broce says a runoff is a continuation of an initial election under Georgia law. She says last-minute changes would complicate preparations for the runoff.

According to the Lawyers’ Committee, the deadline set by the state is a disadvantage for voters that have recently moved or just turned 18.

“This runoff is an important election, and it is critical that all eligible Georgia voters have an opportunity to cast their ballot as required by federal law,” said Ira Feinberg, a partner at Hogan Lovells, the law firm partnering with the Lawyers Committee in bringing this case in a statement. law

Secretary of State Brian Kemp's spokeswoman called the suit "politically motivated."

No votes were lost, but the counting process was delayed for over an hour.

Voting in the runoff for Georgia’s 6th congressional district begins on May 20 and the last day to mail or issue absentee ballots is June 16.

Jon Ossoff is a native to Georgia. He grew up in the 6th District. Ossoff owns Insight TWI, a documentary company that investigates corrupt politicians and organized crime. He got his master’s degree at the London School of Economics. Ossoff also worked with the military and served as a Top Secret security clearance. He was largely unknown before representing the Democratic Party in the race for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

Former Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and Secretary of State, Karen Handel, is a long-standing conservative. Handel and her husband have lived in the 6th District for nearly 25 years. She stated that her main focus includes cutting spending, repealing Obamacare, and reducing regulations. Handel was the Republican with the highest number of votes in the 6th District race.