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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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NAACP Says Georgia Frustrating Minority Vote

(CN) - The state of Georgia failed to promptly determine the eligibility of thousands of black, Latino and Asian voters, potentially depriving them of their right to vote in next month's elections, a lawsuit claims.

In a complaint filed in the Fulton County (Ga.) Superior Court, the plaintiffs, led by NAACP's Georgia chapter, say that from March to September, 2014, the nonpartisan New Georgia Project conducted a campaign to register individuals who were eligible but not yet registered to vote.

By September 15, 2014, the plaintiffs say, the initiative had collected 81,606 voter registration applications and submitted them to the appropriate boards of election.

They say they were in regular contact with the Georgia Secretary of State's office throughout the registration drive, heard no complaints about their efforts, and that "[a]t no time did any member of the Secretary of State's office indicate that the procedures were in any way inadequate or improper."

Of the applications collected, 36,982 were submitted to Fulton County; 11,308 to DeKalb County; 6,742 to Chatham County; 11,222 to Muscogee County; and 3,157 to Clayton County.

However, as of the Oct. 6, 2014 deadline to register to vote in the upcoming election, the status of 56,001 applications was still uncertain.

In Georgia, county boards of registrar are responsible for determining whether an application to vote is valid, and when there are discrepancies, such as missing information, they are required, by law, to notify the registrant in writing of the issue.

If the applicant supplies the necessary information on or before the date of the election, they must be allowed to vote, the plaintiffs say.

But to date, they say, "The defendant Boards have failed to comply with their clear, unequivocal, and non discretionary duty to notify applicants who have not been placed on the Secretary's list of eligible voters that they have failed to provide all of the required information on their applications for voter registration."

According to the complaint, the five defendant counties have flagged only 134 of the applications as questionable, and of those, 50 were deemed fraudulent, 49 were suspicious, and 34 were determined to be legitimate.

"The investigation of potentially invalid or suspect forms does not relieve the Secretary of the Boards of the unequivocal and nondiscretionary duties to evaluate each application on its own merits to notify applicants if their applications are deemed to have missing information in sufficient time for the applicants to supply the missing information and vote in the November 4 election," the complaint says.

The plaintiffs say they attempted to schedule a meeting with the Secretary of State to clear the air and avoid litigation, but that their entreaties were rejected.

"In short, the Secretary has refused multiple requests by NGP and Georgia NAACP that he demonstrate that his office and the Boards will comply with their clear, unambiguous, and nondiscretionary duties. By his actions ,the Secretary has invited this litigation," the plaintiffs say.

They seek a court order compelling the immediate processing of all pending applications, and that the required notice be given to applicants who failed to provide all of the necessary information.

The plaintiffs are represented by V. Robert Denham Jr. of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in Atlanta.

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