(CN) – A federal judge ruled Friday that Georgia’s “exact match” requirement for voter identification “places a severe burden” on prospective voters and will not apply for next Tuesday’s midterm election.
The “exact match” law applied by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who also happens to running for governor in a tight race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, marks an applicant’s registration as “pending” if the personal information on their voter registration form doesn’t exactly match the information on the state’s Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.
If marked pending, the applicant has 26 months to provide the accurate information to the secretary of state’s office.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross said if allowed to stand, the state’s “exact match” requirement would cause some to “suffer irreparable harm if they lose the right to vote.”
Ross directed Kemp’s office to allow county election officials to permit individuals flagged and placed in pending status due to citizenship to vote a regular ballot by furnishing proof of citizenship to poll managers or deputy registrars.
“To be clear, once an individual’s citizenship has been verified by a deputy registrar or a poll manager, that individual may cast a regular ballot and the vote counts,” Ross said.
Kemp is further directed to update the Georgia Secretary of State website to provide “clear instructions and guidance to voters in pending status due to citizenship” and a contact name and telephone number that individuals may call with questions about the pending status due to citizenship.
The order further directs county boards of elections to post a list of acceptable documentation to prove citizenship, which includes a naturalization certificate, birth certificate issued by a state or territory within the United States, U.S. passport, and “other documents or affidavits explicitly identified by Georgia law and listed on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, at polling places on Election Day.”
If proof cannot be provided on site, voters will be allowed to submit provisional ballots and provide the needed information to a registrar before the Friday after the election.
A representative of the secretary of state’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
But advocates for voter rights were quick to praise the decision.
“The Court has recognized — even at this early stage of this important case — that our clients have a significant chance of proving that Secretary Kemp’s “exact match” scheme interferes with our precious right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg of the sort of obstacles that are being placed in front of voters — disproportionately minority voters. We will continue to fight to knock every one of them down. For now, we are thrilled that this order will allow over 3000 voters to vote this Tuesday without being subjected to unnecessary hurdles,” Clarke said.
Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at Campaign Legal Center, agreed, saying it was especially gratifying that Judge Ross is requiring the state “to take steps to educate registrars and poll managers on how to properly verify voter eligibility.”
“Today’s ruling protects the right to vote of eligible voters who have been incorrectly accused of being non-citizens by Georgia election officials,” said Phyllis Blake, President of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP.
“Judge Ross’s ruling will ensure that these voters will be able to cast a regular ballot on Election Day if they bring their proof of citizenship to the polls. Today is a good day for Georgia voters, and the NAACP will continue to monitor this situation and ensure that county and state election officials do their part and prevent any voters from being improperly disenfranchised in next week’s election,” Blake said.