By Valencia Jones

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — In a virtual court hearing, District Judge Steve Jones heard arguments alleging the Secretary of State’s office unjustly cancelled roughly 200,000 voter registrations last year. Attorneys representing several voter organizations say it kept 68,000 people from voting this year. They’re demanding the state allow them to vote during the January 5 runoff election.

“I thought the judge, who I have never seen in court before, was very fair. I thought he gave good time to both sides,” said Barbara Arnwine, the president and founder of Transformative Justice Coalition, one of the organizations involved in the lawsuit.

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State election officials responded to a question on the case during an unrelated press conference. “We properly followed the law based on a federal National Voter Registration Act that we have to do list maintenance,” said Statewide Voting System Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling. He says the process started when those voters were put on a National Change of Address list. “They were sent a mailer saying, ‘Hey, we’re gonna make you inactive if you don’t respond to this, and then, they missed two general elections in a row and didn’t have any contact, and then we sent another post card and said, ‘Hey, you’re about to be cancelled.”

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The plaintiffs’ attorneys say the Secretary of State failed to use a USPS licensee to verify the list before cancelling them. Defense attorneys said none of the organizations complained about the issue in writing until the ACLU issued a voter purge report in September. They said bringing up the issue a year later puts a burden on the system, and they argued there’s no jurisdiction or standing on the case.

Voter groups disagree. “Our case is a compelling case, and I’m hopeful that it will succeed,” Arnwine said. Judge Jones said it could take a day or so to make a decision.

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The deadline to register to vote in January has passed, but he organizations are still urging people to make sure they’re registered for future elections.