Georgia counties may face voter registration lawsuit

Three Georgia counties are being threatened with legal action over their procedures for removing voters from the rolls.

It’s the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle over voter registration in the state, and it comes as the White House’s voting commission looks set to try to make it easier for states to purge voters.

In recent days, the ACLU has sent letters to Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties, all in the Atlanta area, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The group takes issue with confirmation of address notices sent by the counties to some voters believed to have moved—part of Georgia’s biannual effort to clean up voter rolls.

The notices tell voters they’ll be declared “inactive” if they don’t respond within 30 days. But the ACLU says voters who have moved within the same county shouldn’t have to confirm their address, and that making them do so violates federal law.

Voters who are placed on the “inactive” list can still vote. They’re only removed from the rolls entirely if they go another four years without voting or having contact with voting officials. But the address confirmation notices don’t say that—leading to concern among voting rights advocates that some voters will wrongly think they’re ineligible.

“The County is reviewing the ACLU letter and is working to respond to the open records request that was included as part of the correspondence,” Heather Sawyer, a spokeswoman for Gwinnett County, said via email.

“We have no  comment, as the matter is being reviewed in anticipation of possible litigation,” April Majors, a Fulton County spokeswoman, said via email.

A spokesperson for Cobb County didn’t immediately respond to The Daily Democracy’s request for comment.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case challenging Ohio’s procedures for removing voters from the rolls, which could give it a chance to issue a broad ruling setting out how far states may go in removing inactive voters.

Voter registration rules have been a major source of contention lately in Georgia, where a growing minority population is threatening to make the GOP-leaning state competitive.

Earlier this year, voting rights groups successfully challenged a state law that had required people who wanted to vote in June’s closely watched congressional runoff to register a full 90 days ahead of time.

Separately, in February, the state came to a settlement with voting rights groups over its practice of requiring that a voter’s information exactly match that in other state databases if they’re to be added to the rolls. But soon afterwards, the state passed a new law reinstating the “exact match” procedure, with only minor differences.

And in 2014, Secretary of State Brian Kemp clashed with voting advocates after conducting a controversial investigation into a group working to register African-American voters, which turned up no voter fraud.

The fights over voter registration have taken on added significance thanks to the work of the White House voting commission. The panel’s leaders have given signals that they’ll push states to make it harder to get on the rolls or stay there, and will recommend changes to federal law that have the same effect. The Justice Department also has sent letters to state election officials urging them to step up efforts to remove inactive voters from the rolls.

This post has been updated


Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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