Georgia’s tight Senate race could be headed for the courtroom after voters head to the ballot box. A state judge ruled earlier this week against civil rights groups seeking to force the Georgia secretary of State to account for roughly 40,000 voter registrations that were filed but allegedly haven’t shown up on the voting rolls. Those voters could have a big impact on the tight open seat contest between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. That initial ruling raises the possibility of further post-election legal action — and is likely to increase the number of potential provisional ballots, the type of votes that get fought over in court in close elections. Civil rights groups are vowing to fight to make sure every new voter they helped register gets their vote counted after next Tuesday. And both parties are quietly preparing for chaos in close races like the current deadlocked battle, where the results could be fought out in the courts as well as in a runoff. At issue are a large chunk of the more than 100,000 new voters registered by the state NAACP and the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan group focused on registering African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic voters.
The legal wrangling is officially nonpartisan, as was the voter registration drive, but both have clear racial and political overtones. The head of the New Georgia Project is Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), an African-American and close friend of Nunn’s, while Georgia’s secretary of State is white Republican Brian Kemp.
“The only recourse the judge has allowed for these voters is provisional ballots and it’s our mission to make sure every provisional ballot cast is counted,” Abrams told The Hill. “My focus as head of the New Georgia Project is making sure that every provisional vote that’s cast that’s valid is counted and if it means going to court to do that we will certainly do that.”
Others agree that legal fights could be in the offing, both because of these voters and the large number of other newly registered voters in the state. Newly registered voters are more likely to have problems with their registrations and have to vote provisionally more often. As both Nunn and Perdue aim for an outright victory in the close race, every vote will count.
“There will be some sort of tussle if it’s close,” said one Georgia Democrat. “The conditions make it more likely there will be increased numbers of provisional ballots.