A judge called Rep. Rodney Alexander's last-minute switch to the Republican Party an attempt to subvert the election process and ordered that the sign-up period be reopened for new candidates for Congress.
Alexander infuriated Democrats this month when he switched to the GOP just minutes before the deadline for getting on the ballot. The move made it virtually impossible for the Democrats to field a promising candidate to run against Alexander.
"Mr. Alexander has attempted to subvert the electoral process for his own personal gain. His action deprived voters of the right to vote for a Democratic candidate," said District Judge Allen Edwards, a Democrat.
The judge did not throw Alexander off the ballot, as the Democrats had asked. He did not immediately set a new deadline for the sign-up period.
Republicans said the judge crossed the line in making such strong statements about Alexander's party change. "We believe that's not fair," GOP lawyer Bobby Burchfield said.
Chris Whittington, representing the Democratic Party, said: "The decision hit the nail on the absolute head. He did the best thing he thought he could do."
Alexander's defection means Democrats must gain another seat -- 12 in all -- to win back the House this fall.
Burchfield's presence in the case indicates how important the national party considers the outcome. He also represents House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in Texas in a legal battle over redistricting there, and he helped argue the Republicans' case in the 2000 Florida election dispute.
Alexander won the seat formerly held by Republican John Cooksey by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2002.