USDOJ Blocks Georgia’s Voter Verification

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Dear Georgia voters,

We have some great news!!  In a victory for Georgia voters. the Department of Justice has blocked discriminatory voting changes that would have disenfranchised thousands of minority voters.   This case came out of the great work of Georgia Election Protection  and shows just how important Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is to minority voters.

During last year’s historic elections, Georgia made changes to its voter registration verification program – without first seeking federal preclearance as required by Section 5 of the VRA – that would have would have instituted two sets of discriminatory procedures.  Georgia’s Election Protection leaders heard of the program through meetings with election officials, filed suit, and prevented the changes from being implemented because they had not been precleared. 

The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Section 5 later this month.

The first rule Georgia tried to implement, the so-called “no-match no-vote” rule, rejected voter registration applications if the drivers’ license or Social Security information on the application forms did not match the Department of Driver Services (DDS) or Social Security Administration databases. An error as simple as transposing a number on a driver’s license could lead to an erroneous non-match and the rejection of a legitimate application.  Moreover, African-Americans comprised the majority of registrants flagged under this faulty matching program.

The second rule checked applicants’ records in the DDS database for citizenship status.  If it indicated they were a non-citizen, the applicants would not be registered to vote unless they provided proof of citizenship to the registrar.  The problem with this system is that DDS does not automatically update citizenship status when individuals become naturalized citizens.  This faulty match led to the erroneous rejection of more than half of the 7,007 individuals caught up by the system – including one in seven who were actually born in this country.  Thousands of legitimate U.S. citizens – many Latino and Asian-American – received letters that government matches found they were not a citizen.

Thanks to the Department of Justice, Section 5, and Georgia Election Protection, thousands of eligible Georgia voters were not blocked from the ballot box!

Later this month, the Supreme Court will issue a decision in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, a case that was argued before the Supreme Court on April 29, 2009 which challenges the constitutionality of Section 5. While they should find Section 5 to be constitutional, we need to start preparing for all potential outcomes.

You can help by clicking here to send an email to friends and colleagues to let them know that Section 5 is a vital tool in the fight against discrimination!

This summer is going to be an exciting time for voting rights, but we need your help to make sure the message gets out there. Thank you for your continued support.

Thank you,

Jon Greenbaum
Election Protection Leader
Legal Director, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

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