Oct 29 6:42 PM

Court won’t force Georgia to find 40,000 missing voters

Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn's quest for a U.S. Senate seat could be affected by a Georgia decision not to enfranchise over 40,000 new potential voters.
Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Georgia residents have submitted all required documentation, but have still not received a voter registration card, and so will be denied a chance to participate in Tuesday’s important midterm election.

And there’s likely nothing they can do about it.

Yesterday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher denied a petition from voter rights advocates that would have forced the Georgia Secretary of State to process an estimated 40,000 voter registration forms now missing from a public database.

As reported two weeks ago, voter registration drives sponsored by the New Georgia Project had collected the necessary forms from an estimated 80,000 people around the state. But while voters in affluent communities seemed to receive their registration cards in a timely fashion, over half of those who applied, mostly those from poorer and predominantly minority neighborhoods, were still waiting, some as long as six months, and there was no record of these potential voters in the system.

After negotiations with Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp proved fruitless, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the Georgia NAACP, which served as legal representatives for New Georgia, sued.

Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, called Tuesday’s court decision “outrageous.”

“[A] Republican appointed judge has backed the Republican Secretary of State to deny the right to vote to a largely African American and Latino population,” Johnson said.

This is not merely academic. In July, Kemp was recorded telling a group of Georgia GOP insiders that he was concerned Democrats were registering too many minority voters. In September, Kemp launched a fraud investigation into the New Georgia Project’s registration drive, though he has never said why he suspected fraud.

The Republican deputy whip of the Georgia Senate complained that racially diverse DeKalb County was making it too easy for minorities to cast ballots by allowing voting in a mall close to predominantly African-American churches.

But Judge Brasher ruled that it was “premature” to suspect that state officials would “fail to carry out their mandatory duties.”

The prospect of 40,000 voters denied access to the ballot has the potential to swing a number of races in Georgia, not the least of which are the Governor’s race between Incumbent Republican Nathan Deal and Democrat Jason Carter, and the important Senate contest between Michelle Nunn, the Democrat, and GOP standard-bearer David Perdue — both of which are extremely close, according to recent opinion polls.

The question of which party will control the Senate next year could hang in the balance.

Georgia law requires the victor to top 50 percent, with a January 6 runoff if no candidate gets a simple majority. This is a very real possibility in the Peach State, as Libertarian Amanda Swafford is expected to grab about 5 percent of the vote.

As detailed recently, 40,000 ballots could amount to around 1.5 percent of the November vote — a margin that could easily affect the outcome in the Georgia Senate race, and in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter