State of Georgia, NAACP/CCGA Swap Motions in Voter Purge Case
(APN) ATLANTA — A class action lawsuit filed on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 in U.S. District Court alleges that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has continuously defied the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by continuing to enforce sections within the Georgia Election Code when they have been condemned by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ).
Common Cause Georgia (CCGA) and the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP are the plaintiffs in the case.
At issue is Kemp’s “willful” enforcement of Section 234 of the Georgia Election Code, which targets registered Georgia voters and eventually purges them from the voting roles if they have not voted in the two most recent federal elections.
“Common Cause Georgia and the NAACP have a lot in common. We both believe the United States has an obligation to make real all the promises of our democracy through engaged voters,” Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Brian Kemp is not the Secretary of State, he is the Secretary of Suppression,” Johnson said.
“He has used his position to malign voting rights of advocates, and he has suppressed voting rights of colored people, the elderly, and young people; and he always seems to pass the blame to others,” Johnson said.
“This is just another round in a long saga with Secretary Kemp,” Johnson said.
Johnson referred to the alleged voter fraud case in Brooks County, Georgia, involving the “Quitman 10 + 2”. Atlanta Progressive News was first in Metro Atlanta to report on the controversial case, where recently-elected Black school board members were removed due to later-unsubstantiated voter fraud claims.
“What gave us a clue that there was something wrong was the large number of Georgia voters on the State’s inactive list,” Brinkley Serkedakis, Executive Director, CCGA, told APN.
In June 2015, there were 800,000 Georgia voters on the State’s inactive voter list.
Once placed on the inactive list, if these voters do not participate in the next two federal elections, they are purged from the voting rolls.
“This section of the Georgia Election Code is not in compliance with the NVRA, and Common Cause Georgia believes in fighting for fair, and accessible elections for everybody. Everybody must be counted,” Serkedakis said.
“After discussing all options with our team and partners, like the NAACP, we decided that litigation would be the most effective strategy to see real change on this issue,” Serkedakis said.
But the State of Georgia contends they have done nothing wrong.
“As we have stated all along, the lawsuit is completely without merit and frivolous. The Georgia Department of Law has clearly explained to plaintiff’s counsel multiple times that Georgia law is consistent with the NVRA,” Candice Broce, Press Secretary for Sec. Kemp, said in a statement sent to APN.
“By enforcing section 234 in conjunction with section 235, id. § 21-2-235, Kemp has removed hundreds of thousands of registered, qualified voters from Georgia’s voter rolls based on their exercise of their right not to vote, in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the Plaintiff’s original complaint reads.
The State of Georgia and Kemp have filed a Motion to Dismiss, obtained by APN through the federal PACER database.
In the State’s Motion, the State claims that section 234 of the Georgia Election Code was amended in 1997, completely eliminating section 234.
“Contrary to the Plaintiff’s assertion, in 1997, the Georgia Legislature amended the Georgia Election Code, striking O.C.G.A §§ 21-2-234 and 21-2-235 in their entirety and replacing them with new statutory language,” the State’s Motion says.
The State also writes that this section of the Election Code was “pre-cleared” by the USDOJ.
Plaintiffs have responded to the State’s Motion explaining that section 234, while modified by the Legislature as noted by the State, was done so in a way that did not alter its original meaning.
The “Department of Justice warned Georgia that its voter-removal program violates the NVRA. Kemp argues that the DOJ’s objection to Georgia’s program has been remedied. It has not. Georgia’s program has not been materially amended. Nor has the DOJ changed its view,” the Plaintiffs wrote.
“The DOJ’s preclearance of Section 234 under the Voting Rights Act says nothing about its compliance with the NVRA—a point the DOJ has made explicitly,” Plaintiffs wrote.
Atlanta Progressive News has reviewed the plain language of the original and amended statutes, and believes that the Plaintiffs’ contentions about the lack of modification to the section at issue, have factual merit.
“We will not, under any circumstance, back down or capitulate to Sec. Kemp. We will not sit around and wait for all the rights we gained during the Civil Rights movement, in the 1960s, to be washed away,” Johnson said.
“This is the same type of political trickery that we witnessed after Federal troops were removed from the south in 1877,” Johnson said.