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Judge orders halt to voter purge in two Georgia counties ahead of Senate runoffs

A judge in Georgia ruled on Monday that two of the state's counties cannot invalidate voting registrations based on unverified change of address data.

“Defendants are enjoined from removing any challenged voters in Ben Hill and Muscogee Counties from the registration lists on the basis of National Change of Address data,” U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner wrote in an order, according to Reuters.

Abrams Gardner is the sister of former Democratic candidate for governor and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.

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The two counties had sought to purge thousands of voters from the rolls based on what local election officials called unreliable change of address data. The vast majority of them included 4,000 in Muscogee County, which President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenAzar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments House Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE won by a large amount in November, and another 150 in Ben Hill County.

The suit was brought by Majority Forward, a legal group led by an attorney for the Democratic Party, Politico reported.

“We continue to monitor how other Georgia counties respond to the suppression scheme,” said attorney Marc Elias. “Where necessary, we will sue and we will win.”

The initial challenge to the voter registration rolls was brought forth by a citizen who told officials in Muscogee he had accessed publicly available voting data to allege some voters on the rolls there had moved out of Georgia. 

More than 2 million people in the state have already cast their ballots ahead of the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections, a contest that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

Both President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE and Biden have held rallies in Georgia in recent weeks, urging their supporters to turn out again and help their party gain control of the Upper Chamber.

—Updated Wednesday at 11:53 a.m.