Georgia purge of nearly ten percent of voters sparks alarm

A leading voting rights group wants answers after Georgia removed nearly ten percent of its voters from the rolls.

Over the weekend, the state de-registered 591,548 voters as part of a biannual process to clean up its rolls, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Monday. The removed voters had been on an inactive list because they hadn’t voted or had any other contact with election administrators for at least three years.

The state also sent notices to an additional 383,487 voters asking that they confirm their address or risk being placed on the inactive list, which would start the process for their removal.

The nearly 600,000 removed voters represent around 9 percent of Georgia’s roughly 6.5 million total registered voters as of the last election.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (pictured), the voting rights organization Let America Vote expressed concern about the removals, saying federal law prohibits using non-voting as a reason to take voters off the rolls.

Voter rolls tend to be riddled with inaccuracies, and all states have procedures for cleaning them up by removing voters who have moved or died, or are ineligible or inactive. But voting experts say removing large numbers of voters, and doing so only because of a failure to vote, can lead to eligible voters being disenfranchised.

“If even one eligible, registered voter is purged from the rolls, the whole process of cleaning up a state’s voter file is unjustified,” Let America Vote President Jason Kander said in a statement. “Purging over half a million Georgia voters leaves a lot of room for error, and that’s why Let America Vote is going to make sure that there was no risk of disenfranchisement in the process.

“Under federal and state law, we are required to conduct regular maintenance of Georgia’s voter rolls,” Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Kemp, said in a statement to The Daily Democracy. “It ensures that our records are accurate and works to preserve the integrity of our electoral system. It is our duty to keep the voter rolls up-to-date, and we will vigorously defend this duty in the face of opposition. By regularly updating our rolls, we prevent fraud and ensure that all votes are cast by eligible Georgia voters.”

Broce noted that a judge had dismissed a recent lawsuit by voting rights groups against Georgia’s process for removing voters.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case next term challenging Ohio’s process for removing inactive voters, which is similar to Georgia’s. The justices are likely to issue a ruling that clarifies how far states can go in removing inactive voters.

In its letter, Let America Vote made a public records request for the list of voters who have been removed from the rolls or received address confirmation notices this year, and the reasons for the moves.

The group also asked for records of any communication that Kemp’s office had with the U.S. Justice Department or the White House’s voting commission. Voting advocates are concerned that the commission will help or encourage states to remove voters from the rolls.

Kander, a former Missouri secretary of state, chairs a panel of Democrats that was created to counter the White House commission.

The ACLU recently sent pre-litigation letters to three Georgia counties alleging that federal law bars them from sending the address confirmation notices to voters who moved within the same county.

 

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