American Oversight on Wednesday sued Muscogee County in Georgia after election officials violated open records laws. Officials failed to respond to requests seeking documents related to the effort by a right-wing group to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters ahead of the upcoming Senate runoff elections.
In mid-December, the group True the Vote, working through activists in Georgia, announced that it was challenging the voter registration status of 364,541 Georgia voters. These challenges cite questionable data, including address change request records, and ask county election officials to preemptively void voters’ registrations.
Election officials in multiple Georgia counties have rejected the challenges, but the Muscogee County election board voted to require 4,000 registered voters to submit provisional ballots and additional proof of residency in order to participate in the Jan. 5 election. On Monday night, a federal judge ordered Muscogee County to reverse the decision, finding that the county had improperly relied on unverified data.
On Dec. 21, American Oversight filed requests under the Georgia Open Records Act with officials in 15 counties, including Muscogee, seeking records of their communications with True the Vote or the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), another voting-restriction activist group, as well as with state or local Republican party officials or officials in the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
“Those who see power as paramount over all else are treating Georgians’ constitutional rights like minor speedbumps,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “If election officials are going along with this unlawful scheme to disenfranchise Georgia voters instead of defending their rights, the public needs to understand why.”
Wednesday’s lawsuit and an accompanying motion seeking an injunction ask the Superior Court of Muscogee County to order the county officials to release the records requested by American Oversight. American Oversight is represented by attorney Von A. DuBose of the law firm DuBose Miller.
American Oversight has been actively investigating efforts by voting-restriction activists to remove Americans from voter rolls across the country. Records uncovered by American Oversight showed that PILF had sent officials in Palm Beach County, Fla., lists of allegedly deceased individuals who had voted in recent elections. The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed the records and found “no evidence that votes have been cast for dead people in the county.”
A separate lawsuit by American Oversight in October prompted Georgia’s secretary of state’s office to release thousands of pages of records related to the management of elections and previous efforts to limit voting access. Those documents included emails that reference a July 9 phone call between officials in the secretary of state’s office and PILF.
Under Georgia’s open records law, county and state officials had three business days to respond to American Oversight’s records requests. Early voting is already underway in the Jan. 5, 2021, Senate runoff election, leaving little time for voters to defend their voting rights if their registrations are improperly canceled.
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