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Aug 7 - Kemp Responds to Allegations that GA Law That Removes Voters Violates Federal Law

Category: Georgia Business News

By Lou Phelps, Coastal Empire News

August 7, 2018 - On July 18, 2018, voting rights advocates sent a ‘notice letter’ to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, advising him that the enactment and implementation of the voter registration provisions of Georgia Act 250 (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-220.1), which codified a ‘no match, no vote’ voter registration protocol, violate Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, and requesting that Secretary Kemp immediately cease enforcement of the Georgia law or risk facing a new legal challenge to the law in federal court.

Under the Georgia law, a voter registration application is flagged and placed in “pending” status if the information on their registration form does not exactly match information contained in the Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration databases. The matching process also flags some U.S. citizens as non-citizens, even in cases where the applicants submit a copy of their U.S. naturalization form or other evidence of their U.S. citizenship with their voter registration applications.

There are many reasons why a name might not match, such as those with hyphenated last names – one source uses a hyphen, another system does not allow it and adds a space between the two last names.

If applicants do not cure the “no-match” result, they are removed from the registration rolls after 26 months.  “The matching protocol has an extraordinarily high error rate, resulting in the unreasonable delay in the processing of voter registration applications and the risk that the application will be canceled after 26 months, resulting in the disenfranchisement of legitimate, voting-eligible Georgians,” according to the organization.

“Georgia Act 250’s voter registration protocol is similar to one that had been previously adopted administratively by Secretary of State Kemp, and which was challenged in federal court by voting rights advocates in 2016. Despite the fact that the “no match, no vote” protocol had been shown to have a high error rate and a substantial, negative impact upon voting-eligible African American, Latino and Asian American Georgians, this discriminatory process was nevertheless codified into Georgia law with the passage of HB 268 in 2017 by the Republican-controlled Georgia General Assembly.

“Our democracy depends on the ability of all voters to participate in the political process,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Georgia’s ‘no match, no vote’ policy has already disenfranchised tens of thousands of eligible voters and has had a particularly onerous effect on minorities and the poor.  The State should stop using this error-ridden and discriminatory practice immediately.  If not, we will leverage all of the tools available to us to combat voting discrimination and to achieve fairer and more democratic outcomes across our country.”

The NVRA compliance demand was issued by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Campaign Legal Center, with assistance by their pro bono counsel, the New York City office of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, along with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta and the Law Office of Bryan Sells. It was sent on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, ProGeorgia State Table, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and New Georgia Project.

Secretary of State Kemp, who is a also the Republican candidate for Governor in Georgia, has now issued the following statement:   “November 6, 2018 is right around the corner, which means it’s high time for another frivolous lawsuit from liberal activist groups. They pulled the same stunt in 2014 and 2016, and it’s no surprise that they’re planning the same tactics this year. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that they’ll file their lawsuit within the next couple of weeks, giving themselves enough lead time to secure favorable coverage with their media allies every day between now and the general election.”

“Despite what my friends at the Lawyers’ Committee claim, federal and state law clearly authorize Georgia’s matching process for new registrants, and the 11th Circuit has already ruled in favor of a similar law in Florida. Not a single voter whose status is pending for failure to verify will get rejected this election cycle. The twenty-six-month period affords any pending applicant plenty of time to participate in a federal election – when expected turnout is highest – so the applicant has the best opportunity to provide the necessary information and move to active status.

“Under my tenure as Secretary of State, Georgia has shattered records for voter registration and turn-out across all demographic groups. Now, Georgia has an online voter registration website and a dedicated website for voters to get on-demand, personalized election information. Neither existed before I took office. We have a wildly successful Student Ambassador Program for 1,500 young adults to learn how to register their peers to vote, engage in civics, and participate in the electoral process. Voter registration in this key demographic group – which represents our nation’s future leaders – has doubled since I announced this new program.

“Despite any claim to the contrary, it has never been easier to register to vote in Georgia and actively engage in the electoral process. The numbers do not lie. I defeated the Lawyers’ Committee and their clients in 2014, and I look forward to successfully defending Georgia's common-sense verification law if they move forward with this litigation,” responded Kemp.

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