Georgia Republicans, including the campaigns of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, sued on Thursday to get election officials to remove from the ballot count the votes of new Georgia residents who took part in the ongoing runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.
A federal judge on Friday evening rejected their case.
And as that voter residency lawsuit was heard and dismissed, another lawsuit was filed on Friday against the state regarding its conduct of the high-profile runoff elections, said prominent Democratic lawyer Marc Elias. Elias has been tracking litigation surrounding the 2020 elections.
The new lawsuit asks the court to order Georgia to quit using in the runoffs any electronic voting equipment made by Dominion Voting Systems. It also says the election officials are handling mail-in absentee ballots improperly and illegally.
Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood filed this lawsuit. He has been involved in similar lawsuits in Georgia and around the country challenging the results of the presidential election in which Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
Dominion machines have been the target of much ire from Trump supporters alleging, without evidence, that they were rigged in Biden's favor. Previous lawsuits alleging problems with Dominion’s machines have been dismissed.
Loeffler and Perdue are defending their seats from Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Polling says the races are close. If the Democrats win, they will snatch control of the Senate away from the Republicans.
All the president’s lawsuits: Click here for a guide to the status of the Trump campaign’s election result challenges in eight states.
Thursday’s voter residency lawsuit
In the voter residency lawsuit filed Thursday, the plaintiffs believe some new Georgia residents "raced to Georgia to register to vote" specifically to cast ballots in Georgia’s runoff election, lawyer George Meros of Tallahassee, Florida, said in a hearing late Friday afternoon. Voters shouldn’t be allowed to vote in the same election cycle for senators in two states, Meros told the judge.
He contended that it is illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act and unfair to Georgia’s other voters.
The lawsuit cites statements made in November on Twitter and on CNN in which commentators said people should quickly move to Georgia in order to vote in the runoff.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose office is in charge of elections, previously said his office is investigating whether several groups were bringing people to Georgia to fraudulently vote.
Voter registration reopened following the Nov. 3 general election and closed on Dec. 7 for the runoff balloting. Residents who weren’t registered to vote in Georgia the Nov. 3 balloting – when none of the four Senate candidates obtained a majority – were allowed to register to vote in the runoff elections. Early voting and absentee voting are underway, and balloting ends Jan. 5.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week nearly 76,000 people registered to vote from Nov. 4 through Dec. 7.
The residency lawsuit was filed against Raffensperger, the State Election Board, the Glynn Glynn County Board of Elections and the Chatham County Board Of Elections. The plaintiffs are the Georgia Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which is working to elect Loeffler and Perdue), the Loeffler and Perdue campaigns, and three Georgia voters.
The plaintiffs said in the filings they found eight newly registered voters in Glynn County who voted in another state, then registered to vote in Georgia, and voted early, and another 19 such newly registered voters in Chatham County.
"Ballots cast by these registrants – that have already voted for a candidate for U.S. Senator of a different state – in Georgia’s 2021 run-off election will be unlawful," the lawsuit says.
More voter registration drama: Raffensperger blasts GOP Senators for demanding voter list they already have
Meros asked U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to tell election officials to separate the mail-in ballots of newly registered voters from other states who previously voted in the November balloting, and to set aside the in-person ballots of such voters. Then each voter could be reviewed to see if his or her ballot will be counted.
Judge Wood was skeptical of the case and ultimately rejected it on Friday evening.
She said there was no way to know whether these voters filled out the Senate portion of the ballots in their old states. In past rulings, the appellate courts have said judges should not change the rules of an election while it is underway as that creates confusion and opportunity for mistakes among election workers and voters.
Further, the process of pulling ballots to review a voter could suppress some voters from voting, Judge Wood said. The voters would have no obligation to answer questions and it would be difficult logistically to do what the plaintiffs want.
She also said plaintiffs lacked legal standing to sue.
Judge Wood was nominated for the federal bench by Republican President George. W. Bush in 2007.
New voter machine lawsuit
Lawyer Lin Wood’s new voter machine and absentee ballot lawsuit was filed late Friday in U.S. District Court, Democratic lawyer Elias said on Twitter.
Elias posted a copy of the litigation on his website; the USA Today Network was not immediately able to find the case on Pacer, the federal court system’s online electronic database of court records. The public-facing portion of Pacer is not always updated immediately as lawyers file lawsuits and other court papers.
Lin Wood’s lawsuit asserts:
The voting machines are tainted and the results they generate can’t be trusted. Dominion Voting Systems says on its website such claims about its machines are false.
Election officials are using a new procedure (which involves three employees instead of just one) to verify the signatures on mail-in ballots. The suit alleges this means fewer ballots will be rejected.
Elections offices should be prohibited from using drop boxes to collect mail-in absentee ballots, claiming this provides an opportunity for fraudulent votes to be turned in.
Election officials should not be allowed to start scanning in absentee ballots eight days before the Jan. 5 Election Day instead of waiting until Election Day, as prescribed by Georgia law. It says the state Elections Board adopted the earlier count date as an emergency rule in May.
On Thursday, another federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that claimed there are problems with the verification of voter signatures on absentee ballots and that said the use of ballot drop boxes is against state law.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more voters than usual cast mail-in ballots across the country to avoid coming into contact with strangers who could be infected. Some state election offices start tabulating these votes before Election Day due to the size of that task and the amount of time it requires.
Final election results can be delayed past election night when there are a large number of mail-in ballots to remove from their envelopes to be scanned and tabulated.
As of Friday, 1.12 million voters so far have cast ballots for Georgia’s runoff election: nearly 642,000 in person and more than 481,000 by mail, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Lawsuit claims out-of-staters came to Georgia to vote in Senate runoff