Georgia Sued Over Law Preventing Voter Registrations

ATLANTA (CN) — Civil rights organizations sued Georgia’s secretary of state to stop him from enforcing a law blamed for blocking the processing 50,000 voter registrations.

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Atlanta the plaintiffs seek to overturn Georgia’s “exact match” law, which requires the information on a voter’s registration form to exactly match information on their driver license, state ID card or Social Security records.

The complaint filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law claims the “exact match” requirement is unconstitutional and violates the Voting Rights Act.

The plaintiffs include the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, The Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, the New Georgia Project, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and ProGeorgia.

The organizations allege that the “exact match” registration protocol improperly flags tens of thousands of eligible applicants, the majority of whom are minority applicants, for potential cancellation.

If the information on a voter registration application doesn’t exactly match the information contained in the government’s databases, the registration application is placed into “pending” status. The applicant then has 26 months to cure the error before the application is cancelled.

According to the complaint, the “exact match” system is notoriously error-prone and often flags naturalized United States citizens as non-citizens even if the applicant has included their naturalization certificate with their registration documents.

“[T]he system relies upon citizenship data in [Department of Driver Services] records that are not automatically updated to reflect that an applicant has attained U.S. citizenship after having previously obtained a driver’s license or state ID as a non-citizen,” the complaint states.

The complaint alleges that the notice sent by the state to flagged voters does not clearly articulate the deadline to correct their application and is frequently confused with junk mail, leaving many voters unaware that their registration status is in jeopardy.

Even simple errors like the deletion or addition of a hyphen or apostrophe in a last name, the accidental entry of an extra space, or the transposition of a letter or number could cause an application to be flagged.

“It imposes unnecessary and discriminatory burdens on the voter registration process,” the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that the “exact match” protocol “disproportionately and negatively impact[s] the ability of voting eligible African-American, Latino and Asian-American applicants to register to vote.”

According to the complaint, approximately 80 percent of the 53,000 registration applications currently on hold were submitted by minorities.

“Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been a driving force behind multiple voter suppression efforts throughout the years in Georgia,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a statement.

“If there is one person in Georgia who knows that the ‘Exact Match’ scheme has a discriminatory impact on minority voters, it’s Brian Kemp because we successfully sued him over a mirror policy in 2016.  There exists a stark parallel between the voter suppression schemes levied by states around the country prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the insidious tactics used by Secretary Kemp to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County to gut the Act and its protections for African Americans and other people of color that came with it,” Clarke said.

Kemp has said that anyone whose registration application was flagged and classified as “pending” can still cast an absentee ballot if they show a valid photo ID when they arrive at their polling location.

A representative for Kemp did not respond to a request for comment.

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