Election integrity activists’ challenge of Georgians’ voting eligibility following the state’s 2020 elections does not constitute voter intimidation, a federal district court ruled on Tuesday.
Writing for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Judge Steve Jones, an Obama appointee, found that True the Vote (TTV) and other election integrity activists’ separate efforts to challenge potentially ineligible Georgia voters ahead of the Peach State’s 2021 Senate runoffs do not violate provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). The lawsuit against True the Vote and its co-defendants was brought by several Georgia residents and Fair Fight, a left-wing nonprofit founded by Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s 2018 and 2022 Democrat gubernatorial candidate.
“[B]ased on the evidence before [the court], there is insufficient evidence to show voter intimidation or attempted voter intimidation by Defendants against the voters in this case,” Jones wrote. “Not only have Plaintiffs failed to overcome the fact that their actions did not result in any direct voter contact or alone include or direct county Boards of Elections to pursue an eligibility inquiry, but there is no evidence that Defendants’ actions caused (or attempted to cause) any voter to be intimidated, coerced, or threatened in voting.”
Under Georgia law, voters are authorized to “challenge the eligibility of another voter if they suspect that person no longer lives in the county.” The statute, according to Just the News, places “no limit” on “the amount of voter eligibility challenges allowed in the state.”
On Dec. 18, 2020, TTV announced its plans to challenge the eligibility of more than 364,000 Georgia voters prior to the 2021 Senate runoff elections, and “indicated that it was working with” co-defendants Derek Somerville, a former Marine and FBI special agent, and Mark Davis, a voter data analytics and residency issues expert, to do so. Both parties recruited volunteers to file challenges in various Georgia counties. As Jones noted, however, TTV’s efforts were separate from those undertaken by Somerville and Davis.
While TTV’s list of potentially ineligible voters contained more than 364,000 individuals, Somerville and Davis’ list amounted to roughly 39,000, with the latter two noting that TTV’s list was “too big, even ‘systemic’ … and that they would not have used TTV’s methods themselves.” In his ruling, Jones noted how Somerville and Davis’ bid to legally challenge potential ineligible voters “was more careful and deliberate than that of TTV,” and highlighted how they “wished to challenge as few people as possible and ensure that the voters they did challenge had a legitimate basis to be challenged.”
In compiling their list of possible ineligible voters, Somerville and Davis used data from the National Change of Address (NCOA) database that “identified Georgia residents who had confirmed moves with the U.S. Postal Service.” Using this information in conjunction with “Georgia’s voter file, the absentee voter file, and geospatial data,” the two used a “funnel” process to “pare down” the data to ensure their challenges were as narrow and specific as possible.
“The Court finds that Davis and Somerville took reasonable efforts to remove eligible voters as part of their overall desire to narrow their challenge file as much as possible and not overly burden the counties where they facilitated Section 230 challenges,” Jones wrote.
It’s worth mentioning that Davis told The Federalist during a phone interview last year that, of those Georgians on their list “who indicated they had moved from one Georgia county to another, but then voted in the 2020 general election in the county from which they had moved,” 12,000 later “updated their voter registration addresses, ‘providing the secretary of state the exact address they had previously provided to the [U.S. Postal Service].'” In other words, more than 12,000 in-state movers tacitly confirmed they illegally cast their vote in the wrong county in 2020.
While it’s unclear whether plaintiffs will appeal Tuesday’s ruling, Fair Fight Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid indicated in a statement that the group would, as the Associated Press described, “continue to push back against the challenges.”