Karen Handel, the Georgia Republican running in a special congressional election, insists her constituents should be angry over a federal judge’s decision to let more people register to vote in a June runoff.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten, who was nominated by former GOP President George W. Bush to the federal bench, ruled last week that Georgia had to extend its voter registration deadline until May 21 for the runoff contest between Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Federal law says that states can set a deadline for voter registration no sooner than 30 days before an election. Georgia had argued that the 30-day deadline applied to the initial special election in April, but not the runoff.
The decision will simply allow more people to vote, and there’s no evidence it will necessarily benefit Democrats. Nonetheless, Handel called it a “partisan” lawsuit in a fundraising email sent Monday.
“This is going to boil your blood. Just hours ago, the Democrats won their lawsuit to extend voter registration in Georgia before our election,” she wrote in the email. “This lawsuit should be seen for exactly what it is: A partisan attempt to change the rules in the middle of an election for a nakedly partisan outcome.”
Handel suggested that Democrats were trying to steal the election.
“Friend, I need your immediate support to fight back aganist the Democrat’s latest trick to deceive this election,” she wrote.
The email echoed the statement Handel put out shortly after last week’s decision, in which she accused Democrats of trying to change the rules to their advantage. The relevant federal law, the National Voter Registration Act, clearly says that the 30-day deadline applies to runoff elections.
“Its [sic] clear Jon Ossoff’s campaign to deceive the voters of the 6th District is not working. When the Democrats can’t win Elections following the rules – rules they themselves authored and enforced for years – they file partisan lawsuits to change them,” she said in the statement. “This lawsuit should be seen for exactly what it is: A partisan attempt to change the rules in the middle of an election for a nakedly partisan outcome.”
All eligible voters can avail themselves of the right to exercise the most sacred right in our democracy, regardless of their affiliation and as required under law
The lawsuit was brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf five different civil rights and civic engagement groups, including the Georgia NAACP. Sacha Haworth, an Ossoff spokesperson, said Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, was using the decision for her own gain.
“Karen Handel has a long track record of putting her personal political agenda above the public interest and here she goes again.”
Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the voting rights project at the Lawyers’ Committee, said the ruling “benefits every single eligible voter in Congressional District 6, regardless of partisan affiliation.”
“Thus, it is fully unclear what motivates those hostile to the court’s ruling,” he said. “All eligible voters can avail themselves of the right to exercise the most sacred right in our democracy, regardless of their affiliation and as required under law― that’s a good outcome for democracy.”
Rosenberg said when the lawsuit was filed that it was “actually a very, very simple case.” “Federal law specifically defines elections as including runoff elections,” he said.
There are 464,000 more voter applications this year than in the previous non-presidential year, according to The Telegraph.
The race is being closely watched because of the unexpected support for Ossoff. Republicans have long controlled the district, but Ossoff earned 48.1 percent of the vote in the April special election ― just falling short of the 50 percent threshold required to avoid a runoff.
The runoff contest to fill the seat vacated by Tom Price, now secretary of Health and Human Services, is on June 20.