ATLANTA (CN) - The State of Georgia is taking away the voting rights of thousands of minority and student residents by refusing to register them and by enforcing a "voter registration list maintenance procedure" that knocks eligible voters off the rolls, says a federal action by a Hispanic rights organization.
The class action says Georgia is disenfranchising people under the ruse that it is complying with the Help America Vote Act.
Representing the class, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU say Georgia refused to register more than 2,000 people by claiming that their driver's license numbers or Social Security numbers did not match state or federal databases.
Named plaintiff Jose Morales claims the Help America Vote Act authorizes states to assign identifying numbers to voters, but does not authorize states to use the error-plagued Social Security database to disqualify voters.
Plaintiffs say the state's "new voter registration list maintenance procedures involving citizen checks, which serve as triggers for other new procedures regarding absentee voting and voter challenge hearings in the State of Georgia".
The Help America Vote Act of 2002, which was passed to respond "serious problems with the administration of elections in the United States revealed by the 2000 presidential election," is being used to deny Morales and other residents' their vote in Georgia, the class says.
According to the complaint, "because the defendant has failed to secure federal pre-clearance of the new voter registration list maintenance procedures based on citizenship which affect voting, the new voting procedures are legally unenforceable under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
Morales says he got a letter from the Cherokee County Elections and Registration office telling him that if he did not contact the office by Oct. 15 or appear at a hearing that day, his name will be removed from voting rolls.
Morales, who has been a legal permanent resident since he was a child, became a U.S. citizen in November 2007, and he got a Georgia driver's license in April 2006. In September this year, Morales, a university student, completed a voter registration form on campus through a student organization.
About two weeks later, he received a letter indicating that he would not be able to vote unless he showed evidence of citizenship in court and that he would be removed from the voter registration list if he could not prove his citizenship.
Morales brought his passport to the Cherokee County Elections and Registration office to prove his citizenship and received his voter registration card about a week later. However, a few days later, Morales received certified mail from the office which specified that he may not be able to vote in the county because he may not be a U.S. citizen.
Plaintiffs say the 11th Circuit has found Georgia's "maintenance procedure" policy illegal, but the state went ahead with it anyway. They want the disenfranchisements stopped and the policy enjoined.
Lead attorney is Elise Sandra Shore with MALDEF's Atlanta office.
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