A federal judge in Georgia ordered two counties on Monday to reverse their decision to purge more than 4,000 voters ahead of the Jan. 5 Senate runoff races.

The ruling judge is Leslie Abrams Gardner, the sister of former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams who was largely credited for her initiatives to increase voter registration and turnout through Fair Fight.

The case involved about 4,000 votes in Muscogee County, which President-elect Joe Biden easily won in November, and another 150 from Ben Hill County, which Trump won by a wide margin.

The initial challenge in Muscogee County was brought Dec. 14 by local voter Ralph Russell, who said he cross-analyzed voter registration databases which showed those 4,000 voters had moved out of the state.

“I believe that each of the individuals named … as a result of registering their name and change of address to a location outside of Muscogee County, removed to another state with the intention of making the new state their residence,” Russell told the county board. “Thus, each individual has lost their residence in Muscogee County, and consequently, each individual is ineligible to vote in Muscogee County.”

The board met on Dec. 16 and backed his motion 3-1, despite him not attending the meeting nor providing further evidence. The voters named would be required to vote by a provisional ballot and present evidence of Georgia residency.

The Ben Hill County challenge brought by a Fitzgerald City Councilmember was similar, though it relied on unverified change of address records.

The Muscogee board filed a motion on Monday requesting Gardner’s recusal from the case due to her relationship with Abrams.

“Abrams’ involvement in the Fair Fight Litigation … is sufficient to satisfy the standard for mandatory judicial recusal,” the board’s attorneys wrote. “Abrams has a clear interest in the outcome of this proceeding and other similarly situated litigation in Georgia due to her voting advocacy through projects such as Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project.”

Gardner noted the board’s request in her ruling but said the court found “no basis for recusal.”

“An Order detailing the Court’s reasoning is forthcoming,” she added.

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