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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

The Tampa Bay housing market is on fire

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In December, Tampa Bay-area homes flew off the market in about 10 days, and buyers paid top dollar, according to Florida Realtors' latest report.

The state of play: Historically low interest rates are driving demand. That, combined with low inventory, caused home prices to surge.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Health

Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency — it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.

How Hertz is fighting to stay relevant

A Hertz car rental counter in the Miami International Airport. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the span of less than a week, Hertz has made three big strategic moves intended to keep the car rental giant from fading into oblivion.

Why it matters: Ride-hailing and other mobility innovations are rapidly changing the way people get from A to B, posing an existential threat to traditional car rental services.