HomeAsian AmericansJudge Strikes Down Georgia Voter Suppression Rule

Judge Strikes Down Georgia Voter Suppression Rule

Vote 2018Citizens bearing unfamiliar foreign names and recently naturalized citizens will be allowed to vote after a federal judge ruled against the state’s strictly enforced “exact match” law.

U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross ruled on Friday (Nov. 2) that Georgia must ease enforcement of restrictions that could prevent more than 3,000 people from voting.

The rulings are a rebuke to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office oversees the voter rolls and who is the Republican candidate in the state’s hotly contested gubernatorial race.

The “exact match” law flags voter registrations that have discrepancies with other official identification documents used by the state. Mismatches can occur under the law for such reasons as missing hyphens, accent marks and middle initials. Those who are flagged can still vote if they settle the discrepancy by providing proof of identity.

Civil rights groups filed suit, arguing that the law’s requirements are part of a discriminatory voter suppression effort that disenfranchises predominantly minority voters. Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor who also oversees the vote as Georgia’s secretary of state, says the law is vital for election integrity.

In her ruling, Ross said the requirements raised “grave concerns for the Court about the differential treatment inflicted on a group of individuals who are predominantly minorities. … The election scheme here places a severe burden on these individuals.”

Ross directed Kemp’s office to allow county election officials to permit individuals flagged and placed in pending status due to citizenship to vote a regular ballot by furnishing proof of citizenship to poll managers or deputy registrars.

“To be clear, once an individual’s citizenship has been verified by a deputy registrar or a poll manager, that individual may cast a regular ballot and the vote counts,” Ross said.

Kemp is further directed to update the Georgia Secretary of State website to provide “clear instructions and guidance to voters in pending status due to citizenship” and a contact name and telephone number that individuals may call with questions about the pending status due to citizenship.
I'm a Georgia Voter
The order further directs county boards of elections to post a list of acceptable documentation to prove citizenship, which includes a naturalization certificate, birth certificate issued by a state or territory within the United States, U.S. passport, and “other documents or affidavits explicitly identified by Georgia law and listed on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, at polling places on Election Day.”

If proof cannot be provided on site, voters will be allowed to submit provisional ballots and provide the needed information to a registrar before the Friday after the election.

“Prior to the court’s ruling, these voters, many of whom provided proof of citizenship with their registration form, would have had to physically track down a Deputy Registrar in the county to provide proof of their citizenship,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups that brought the lawsuit.

“Tracking this one individual down was a fatal requirement that would have been impossible for many to meet.”

A report by The Associated Press said that under the “exact match” law, Kemp had stalled more than 50,000 voter registrations by mostly black voters. The AP also reported that through a process Kemp calls “voter roll maintenance,” his office has “cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012” and that “nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone.”

Voting rights been a central issue in Kemp’s race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is vying to become the nation’s first black female governor.

The ballots of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were being rejected at four times the rate of White voters in Gwinnett County.

The ballots of 102 out of 404 ballots cast by Asian Americans had been rejected – a rejection rate of just over 20 percent.

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