Georgia’s special election for its sixth congressional seat is heading to a run-off between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, but anyone who did not register to vote before March cannot participate.
The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and four other voting rights organizations hit the Georgia secretary of state with a federal lawsuit on Thursday challenging the voter registration deadline for the run-off for Tom Price’s seat.
According to the lawsuit, Georgia cuts off registration for run-off elections two months earlier than the time period guaranteed under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act. That law states that all eligible citizens should be allowed to vote if they register at least 30 days before an election.
The complaint alleges that not allowing adequate time for registration will disenfranchise residents of the district, especially minority voters and new citizens.
“This lawsuit is necessary in order to provide the people of Georgia with the full protections of the federal law,” Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project, said 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.”
The race between 30-year-old Ossoff and former Secretary of State Handel is expected to be close, with voter turnout crucial to Democrats’ chances of flipping the seat. The participation of the growing Latino and black populations in the sixth district will be critical to swinging the district blue.
The lawsuit names both the Georgia NAACP and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta Inc. as plaintiffs, arguing that the early deadline especially hurts minority communities.
“This is a special election that has special implication that go beyond Georgia, and we want to make sure everyone has access to the ballot,” said Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office has dismissed the lawsuit as a “completely political effort,” and has vowed to fight it in court.