Judge Overturns Early Voter Registration Deadline for the Ossoff-Handel Race

Veteran vote suppressor Karen Handel displeased with judicial order reopening registration until May 21. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

It may or may not matter in the results of the June 20 runoff for Congress in the sixth district of Georgia. But it could not hurt the field-heavy Jon Ossoff campaign that a federal judge has struck down the state’s early deadline on voter registration for the runoff, reopening it until May 21, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten made the ruling as part of a broader lawsuit by a Washington-based advocacy group, which last month accused Georgia of violating federal law by reducing the amount of time residents have to register to vote.
Voter registration shut down March 20 ahead of the deciding runoff June 20 for the 6th District election, which is being held in the northern suburbs of metro Atlanta.
Batten, however, ordered registration immediately reopened until May 21.

It probably tells you everything you need to know about the likely impact that Ossoff praised the judge’s decision while opponent Karen Handel attacked it. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Republican secretary of State, Brian Kemp (a candidate for governor next year) called the underlying suit “a political effort by liberal groups to attack him as a Republican officeholder.”

As voting-rights expert Ari Berman noted, registration is on the rise in Georgia:

Voter registration is surging in Georgia — 464,000 more people have registered this year than during the last non-presidential-election year (559,000 voter-registration applications this year compared with 95,000 in 2015). Ossoff’s campaign said it is registering more than a hundred new voters a day.

There’s some rough justice, moreover, in Handel being negatively affected by the dismantling of a barrier to full voter participation:

As Georgia secretary of state from 2006 to 2009, Karen Handel had a long record of making it harder to vote, supporting Georgia’s strict voter-ID law, trying to purge thousands of eligible voters from the rolls before the 2008 election, and repeatedly challenging the residency of qualified Democratic candidates.

This is a do-or-die election for Karen Handel, who lost statewide primary bids in 2010 and 2014. Her political career may yet live by the voter-suppression sword and die by the voter-registration sword.

Voter Registration Deadline in Ossoff-Handel Race Extended