In response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has said that certain Georgians who had their voter-registration applications rejected in 2015 and 2016 will be able to cast ballots in the Nov. 8 presidential and general election.
The announcement applies to people whose registration applications were cancelled because some personal information on the application did not match either driver’s license or Social Security records.
Voters must have proper identification, and those suspected of not being citizens will have to provide proof of citizenship at the polls.
The lawsuit – one of three active suits against Kemp’s office over registration issues – was filed Sept. 14 by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Georgia Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. The suit is being heard by U.S. District Court Senior Judge William O’Kelley.
Coweta Voter Registrar Joan Hamilton said Thursday that her office has been notified of the secretary of state’s decision.
“We don’t have anything final so far, as far as what we’re going to do or how it is going to be handled,” she said.
Hamilton said she hopes to get instructions from the state by the end of the week.
The voter registration deadline for the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 11. Since early voting starts Oct. 17, Hamilton anticipates that the new changes will need to be completed by then.
When a voter registration application is received, the information is checked against the Georgia Department of Driver’s Services database and the Social Security database. Any mismatch triggers a letter to the registrant. If the registrant doesn’t reply within 40 days, the registration is cancelled.
Typically, the mismatches are minor things, maybe a clerical error or a mistake, according to Hamilton. Sometimes, the voter is a new citizen, and the registration form gets processed before the federal database is updated. Clearing up the problem is typically simple.
“We have a pretty good response,” she said.
But sometimes her office never hears back from the flagged registrants.
“I think people put it on the back burner, thinking it will go away,” she said. “And I don’t think they are quite as ready to give out some information sometimes.”
The suit claims that Georgia’s policy violates the federal Voting Rights Act.
The Associated Press reported that Kemp’s attorneys filed a letter last week with the court saying that his office has stopped marking people as ineligible because of mismatches, and won’t resume the practice without a court decision.
Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee said that the parties to the suit are still discussing the status of people who were rejected in 2014.
Another suit, filed in February, challenges the state’s practice of removing voters from the rolls if they haven’t voted in at least eight years. Inactive voters receive several notices in the mail before they are removed, Hamilton said. If a voter has moved, letters go to both the old address and a new address, if the post office has one on file.
“There is a lot of checking before anybody is taken off,” Hamilton said. “It’s not just all of a sudden they’re not there.”
But it’s up to the voters to “sign the papers and send them back in.”
A federal judge recently ruled that a similar practice is Ohio was illegal.
In July, Project Vote sued the state over Kemp’s refusal to release public records related to rejected voter-registration applications. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge William Duffey ordered Kemp’s office to release the records, according to The AP.