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Voters stand in line to cast their ballots during the first day of early voting in the U.S. Senate runoff in Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 14. Photo: Tami Chappell/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday blocked two Georgia counties' attempts to remove over 4,000 voters from electoral rolls ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs that'll determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Why it matters: Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, the sister of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, found the attempts by Muscogee and Ben Hill counties would likely violate the National Voter Registration Act and deny voters their constitutional right to vote.

The big picture: The vast majority of voter registrations that would've been affected were in Muscogee County, which President-elect Joe Biden "won handily in November," notes Politico, which first reported the news. 150 were in Ben Hill County, which President Trump won by a slim majority.

  • The Muscogee County elections board had "found 'probable cause' to pursue" a challenge from Alton Russell, who chairs the Muscogee County Republican Party, on the residency of the registered voters, per the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
  • But the judge found there was not enough evidence to support the case. Politico notes that the evidence in the Muscogee County "was particularly sparse."

Of note: Muscogee County asked the judge to recuse herself from the case given her voting rights advocate sister has filed a separate electoral lawsuit. But Judge Abrams Gardner said in her decision that the court "finds no basis for recusal."

Go deeper: New tool watches for voter purges ahead of Georgia runoffs

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Schumer declares Democratic majority in the Senate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared on Wednesday that Democrats have gained control of the Senate, calling it a "brand new day" in Washington.

The state of play: The AP projected that Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R). Democrat Jon Ossoff is currently leading in the race against former Sen. David Perdue (R), but the contest is still too close to call.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.