Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner reversed part of her ruling late Wednesday night, allowing Muscogee County to impose provisional ballots for challenged voters. However, Gardner maintained that the challenge of eligibility can’t be made solely on the basis of National Change of Address (NCOA) registry data. Gardner’s updated order followed shortly after an original ruling prohibited two counties from imposing provisional ballots for over 4,100 challenged voters.
Gardner is the sister of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic activist leading several organizations and a political action committee dedicated to voters rights. Despite the pair’s connection and Abrams’ interest in the case, Gardner refused to recuse herself. She published an explanation on Thursday, several days after her first order.
“One can only assume that the argument is something to the effect that if my sister is actively engaged in a cause, I cannot be impartial. This argument is mere speculation, unsupported by any facts that would support a finding of partiality,” wrote Gardner. “My relationship to my sister sets no limits to my autonomy, and I have certainly not given up my freedom of thought and expression.”
The ruling also stated that the Muscogee County’s Board of Elections must advise a voter that their eligibility has been challenged by 5 p.m. EST on January 6. The voter has until 4 p.m. EST on January 8 to appeal the challenge and present evidence of their eligibility.
Additionally, Gardner reversed the order against Ben Hill County. According to this latest ruling, the county may challenge registered voters based on the NCOA registry. The total number of votes from Ben Hill County was over 150. Muscogee County carried the bulk of the voters addressed in the case: over 4,000 of them.
The updated ruling followed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s statement, which criticized Gardner’s oversight of the legality of both counties’ voter challenge procedures.
Spokespersons with Gardner’s office and the secretary of state’s office didn’t respond to The Georgia Star News by press time.
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