Civil rights groups scored a victory Thursday when a federal judge in Georgia ruled that the state had to reopen voter registration for next month’s high-profile congressional runoff election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten entered a preliminary injunction requiring Georgia to allow voters in the Sixth Congressional District to register until May 21 in order to avoid causing “substantial and irreparable harm” to “numerous voters.”
Five civil right groups, including the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, sued in April alleging that the state was violating the National Voter Registration Act by requiring voters to register three months before a runoff race.
The lawsuit charged that Georgia’s policy, which would have set a March 20 registration deadline, would keep “untold numbers of people from voting” in the runoff. The NVRA requires that voters be allowed to register up to 30 days before all elections, including runoffs.
Both parties have framed this special election as a proxy battle over President Donald Trump’s success in office. Trump has backed Handel, while Ossoff’s campaign has received donations and benefitted from the work of volunteers from across the country.
Ossoff secured 48 percent of the vote in an 18-candidate field on April 18, coming just short of the 50 percent he needed to win the seat vacated by Trump’s Secretary for Health of Human Services, Tom Price, outright. Handel nabbed her spot in the runoff with 20 percent of the vote.
The order, from a judge nominated by former President George W. Bush, to reopen voter registration for the June 20 runoff could help determine the outcome.
Read the full order below: