Georgia gives 22,000 ‘inactive’ voters extension before removal

Thousands of people who were removed from Georgia’s voter rolls this week for lack of civic participation were put back into “inactive” status following an announcement from the secretary of state on Thursday.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced a deadline extension until December 2021 for 22,000 voters whose registrations had been canceled due to failure to update their registrations in the last several years. The decision was made just hours before the state was to head to court over the purge.

“We are proactively taking additional steps to prevent any confusion come the day of the election,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “We are taking the unprecedented step to give certain individuals who have been identified as having moved and in need of updating their information additional time to vote or contact their county elections office to update their registration.”

The voters were removed under the state’s “use it or lose it” policy, which allows registrations to be canceled after voters fail to participate in elections for several years. The state claims that “the affected individuals voted or had some other type of contact with the voter-registration system in early 2012 but not since.”

The sudden decision was met with applause by Fair Fight Action — a voting rights organization founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams — who filed an emergency motion on Monday and is the plaintiff in the case against the state.

“Secretary Raffensperger’s 11th-hour admission that he made massive errors in this week’s voter purge should send chills down the spine of every Georgian who cares about voting rights,” the group said in a statement.

The group is in the midst of a federal court case to stop “use it or lose it” voter purges in the state which the group deem as unconstitutional.

“In our view, it is a First Amendment right not to vote, and it is unconstitutional to take away a Georgian’s right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections,” Fair Fight Action spokesman Seth Bringman previously told CNN.

“Every voter purged this week under ‘use it or lose it’ must be reinstated immediately,” he added.

On Monday night, the state removed total of 313,000 inactive voters from the rolls citing a new state provision. Under the provision, the state must remove registration records from the voter rolls that have been deemed “inactive” for more than three years. A voter is categorized as “inactive” if they don’t vote in two general elections and have had no contact with board of elections in that time, according to Raffensperger’s office.

The state says the voter maintenance process started in June 2015 when initial voter registrations were marked for inactivity and sent confirmation requests.

The “inactive” voters were then marked for removal after failing to respond to a pre-addressed, postage paid confirmation card within 30 days; the card asked voters to confirm or update their information was sent earlier this year. State officials mailed out notices to the last known address of voters and posted the list of people online.

None of the 22,000 responded to either request, according to state officials.

The policy of updating voting registrations is meant to keep an accurate and fair count during elections and also help with planning of polling site equipment during election cycles, according to state officials.

This isn’t the first time the state has faced controversy surrounding voter list updates. In July 2017, more than half a million registered voters, or 8%, were removed from the rolls; of that total, more than 107,000 were removed for inactivity in recent elections, according to a report from APM.