Voters wait in line to cast ballots at Chastain Park in Atlanta during the early-voting period for the U.S. Senate runoffs on Dec. 15, 2020. (Photo by Beau Evans)

A lawsuit seeking to restore nearly 200,000 Georgia voters with canceled registrations before the U.S. Senate runoff elections next month was shot down by a federal judge on Wednesday.

Forcing Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office to overhaul the state’s voter rolls so close to the Jan. 5 runoffs would pose “significant risk of confusion” for carrying out the election, Judge Steve Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled.

The suit claimed more than 68,000 voters had their registrations canceled in 2019 despite still residing in Georgia, while another roughly 130,000 were removed from the rolls as part of a faulty process for verifying address changes.

Raffensperger’s office argued four groups suing to restore those voters to the rolls used inaccurate change-of-address data and did not give enough advance legal notice they planned to file suit.

Jones agreed, noting the groups could have filed suit much sooner than Dec. 2 and that their data showed “discrepancies” with records Raffensperger’s office uses to cancel dead or relocated Georgians. He urged state officials and the suing groups to work together on fixing the discrepancies.

Raffensperger hailed the judge’s ruling Wednesday and called the suing groups’ claims of improper voter purging based on “sloppy analysis.”

“This office abides by the law regardless of criticism and oversees fair and accurate elections open to all eligible voters – but only eligible Georgia voters,” Raffensperger said in a statement.

Attorneys for the suing groups pressed Raffensperger to set up a meeting soon to go over the change-of-address data discrepancies.

“The judge strongly encourages a meeting to resolve these issues,” said Gerald Griggs, an Atlanta attorney representing the suing groups. “We await [Raffensperger] to set the meeting.”

The suing groups framed their push for Raffensperger to restore registrations of “wrongfully removed” voters as a potential game changer for the Senate runoffs, which are expected to be close.

The runoffs pit Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. Wins by both Ossoff and Warnock would give Democrats control of the White House and both houses of Congress for at least the next two years.

The four suing groups include the Atlanta-based Black Voters Matter Fund, the Washington, D.C.-based Transformative Justice Coalition, the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Texas-based Southwest Voter Education Project.

Their lawsuit followed previous litigation brought by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ group Fair Fight Action last December, which prompted Raffensperger’s office to restore around 22,000 Georgia voters to inactive status rather than remove them from the rolls.

Raffensperger’s office has repeatedly dismissed claims of improper roll purges, noting state law requires officials to remove voters from registration lists if they have not voted in general elections or responded to warning notices for several years.