Stacey Hopkins, ACLU Preserve 160,000 Voter Registrations in State Settlement (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has settled with Stacey Hopkins, a Fulton County voter who last year, in 2017, was threatened with removal from the voter rolls after she moved from one address to another within Fulton County.
The settlement, reached January 31, 2018, preserves the “Active” voter registration status of an estimated class of 160,000 Georgia voters, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU), which represented Mrs. Hopkins.
Hopkins is a prolific, progressive Atlanta activist and one woman-powerhouse, who is known to take action when she perceives an injustice, no matter how big or small.
Hopkins received a threatening letter from the Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections in July 2017, stating that she had to fill out a form within ninety days, or that her voter registration would be purged.
Not only did she receive such a letter, but the County sent two letters for her children, she told Atlanta Progressive News.
She and her family had recently moved from College Park to Atlanta, she said.
It was later revealed that the State of Georgia had recently began partnering with a licensee of the U.S. Postal Service to gain access to a National Change of Address database (NCOA), which provides information regarding when individuals change their address with the post office.
Hopkins filed her Complaint for Writ of Mandamus in Fulton County Superior Court on July 28, 2017. They argued that Kemp’s office and Fulton County’s elections office were neither following state nor federal law, which outline specific procedures for “intra-county” movers.
After Hopkins filed her case, on August 30, 2017, Chris Harvey, the State’s Elections Director, sent a letter saying that they had already corrected 159,930 voters’ registration status to keep them as “Active,” whether or not they responded to what they described as an NCOA “confirmation letter.”
But the ACLU was not satisfied with this letter, and wanted to put in place future safeguards, Sean Young, Legal Director for the ACLU of Georgia, told APN.
“On the eve of the lawsuit, they cried uncle,” Young said.
Ultimately, in the settlement, Kemp’s office agreed to work with Georgia county elections divisions to automatically update the addresses of voters who make an intra-county move, and, if necessary, their polling places.
“I went down there [to Fulton County elections] in October to check on my registration… Richard Barron, the director… comes down to basically tell me, it is what it is. What was stunning was that he brought security,” Hopkins recalled.
“Here I am a voter, a resident of Atlanta, I’m a middle aged Black woman concerned about her vote, and that man called security on me, instead of doing his job and inquiring and getting the information because all I was doing was inquiring about my status,” Hopkins said.
“For Black people, this is the one win we got in this country. That’s in my DNA, when you come for that, you’re coming for the basic essence of my blackness,” she said.
“I feel – it’s bittersweet. While I am delighted and stunned that I was able to do this, there’s something bittersweet about an elected official flagrantly defy the law and keep your job,” Hopkins said.
“Now, you kept your job. You didn’t get a slap on the hand, not a sanction. Had I done it, I would be talking to you from the Fulton County Corrections facility,” she said.
“Elected officials, they’re just governing with impunity and vindictiveness,” she said.
“And at what cost? You multiply… [130,000 voters who received letters] by 49 cents,” the cost of a postage stamp, she said.
“I just did what anyone else… should do – you see something, you say something,” she said.
With new leadership at the ACLU of Georgia, the organization is newly refocusing on democracy issues and voter rights, as well as criminal justice reform.
“The Supreme Court said one hundred years ago the right to vote is preservative of all other rights,” Mr. Young said.
“Ms. Hopkins’s tenacity and dedication to our shared American principles has protected… Georgians’ sacred, constitutional right to vote,” Young said in a separate statement.
“She proves that one person can make a difference. The ACLU of Georgia remains vigilant against any threat to our democracy.”
While a representative from Kemp’s press office returned APN’s call today, the spokesperson who is familiar with this matter, Candice Broce, was not in and did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)
CORRECTION AND UPDATE 1: A previous version of this article stated there were approximately 130,000 Georgians with a recent intra-county move whose voter registration was protected by Hopkins’s action; however, the correct number is approximately 160,000 Georgians. The title and article has been corrected to reflect the latter number.