A Georgia state judge is weighing whether it’s appropriate for him to intervene in a dispute over more than 50,000 voter registration records in one of the nation’s most politically contested states. Lawyers for the NAACP and a voter registration group that recruited new minority voters allege that elections officials have misplaced or mishandled more than half of the 86,000 voter registration applications that they collected ahead of an Oct. 6 deadline. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and elections officials in several counties — most of them majority Democratic — say they are correctly processing all the forms. Attorneys for the groups said they feared that would-be voters, several of whom attended Friday’s hearing, would not have their ballots counted, and they asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher to compel the counties and Kemp to confirm the voters’ registration or explain any denials. “What does the law require that they haven’t done?” Brasher asked, noting that Georgia election law doesn’t set specific deadlines for county elections boards to process applications.
The case is closely watched given Democrats’ strategy of increasing minority participation to help the party win competitive races for governor and U.S. Senate. Early voting began last week. Brasher’s order could come as early as Friday afternoon, though it could be appealed by the losing side.
Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn are vying for the Senate seat held by GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who is retiring Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
The Senate outcome will help determine which party controls the chamber in January, with Republicans counting on Georgia as one of the six seats they need to net to grab the majority. Both races will help set up the 2016 presidential election, with Democrats trying to prove newfound viability in the GOP-run state that President Barack Obama lost twice by single-digit margins.