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Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Ask for Emergency Relief for Newly Naturalized Voters Suspended by Georgia’s Exact Match Process

For Immediate Release October 19, 2018

ATLANTA, GA – Today, a coalition of civil rights organizations filed an emergency motion in Georgia federal district court to make sure that persons inaccurately flagged as non-citizens under Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s flawed “exact match’ system can vote.  Kemp’s “exact match” voter registration process relies on outdated citizenship data which identifies naturalized citizens as non-citizens, forcing them to track down a deputy registrar before they can vote, even if they already produced proof of citizenship when they registered to vote originally. 

 

However, there is not a guaranteed deputy registrar at every polling location. Therefore, naturalized citizens may be required to travel to the county seat to resolve an error in their registration that they did not cause. Moreover, recently naturalized citizens have been told that they cannot fax or mail their proof of citizenship, they must present it in-person. For voters temporarily out of the state, this is an absolute bar to voting.

 

The emergency motion asks only that these voters be treated the same as everyone else on the pending list and be permitted to show their proof of citizenship to their poll worker in-person or mail or fax their proof of citizenship with their absentee ballot application.

 

Of the 51,111 voter registrations that were “pending as a result of a no-match, 80.15 percent were submitted by minority registrants.  Over 3,000 of those individuals have been flagged as potential non-citizens based on outdated and unreliable data. They should have a fair and reasonable opportunity to prove their citizenship and vote.

 

“Georgia voters can’t afford to wait,” said Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “Their fundamental right to vote on November 6 is imperiled by no fault of their own, but rather by Kemp’s continued use of the state’s flawed exact match process. The voters impacted by this process are often newly naturalized citizens voting for the first time. We should be welcoming them to our political community, not interrogating them.”

 

“Secretary Kemp’s much-maligned ‘exact match’ system is a travesty,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It burdens voters with correcting mistakes caused by the State and its faulty databases, and places those burdens disproportionately on minority voters. This is played out starkly in the unreasonable burdens imposed specifically on new Americans, many of whom will not be able to vote unless relief is granted now.”

 

“As an organization, our core mission is to empower our Asian-American communities to be fully active in civic life,” said Phi Nguyễn, litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta. “This includes helping immigrants navigate the naturalization process so that they can exercise one of the hallmarks of citizenship: the right to vote. It’s particularly heartbreaking to witness new American voters being immediately disenfranchised because of unnecessary barriers created by the state of Georgia.”  

 

CLC, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta are serving as counsel in the case representing a coalition of civil rights groups: Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Asian-Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, New Georgia Project, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and ProGeorgia State Table. The suit alleges that Georgia’s protocol violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

 

The original lawsuit was filed on October 11. Today an amended complaint was filed, adding Common Cause and the Joseph & Evelyn Lowery Institute as additional plaintiffs. Learn more about the case: Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda v. Kemp.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. Learn more at Lawyerscommittee.org.

Contact

Derrick Robinson, [email protected], 202-662-8317

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