Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Kemp

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Issues

At a Glance

In 2013, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office issued an administrative policy directive that cancels voter registration applications if they do not match exactly with existing records in the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration (SSA) databases unless the voter takes burdensome steps to resolve the problem prior to Election Day.

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About this Case

In 2013, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office issued an administrative policy directive that cancels voter registration applications if they do not match exactly with existing records in the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration (SSA) databases unless the voter takes burdensome steps to resolve the problem prior to Election Day.

This has resulted in the rejection of thousands of applications. These disqualifications are often the result of innocuous mistakes such as misread handwriting, incorrect transposition of driver’s license digits or the omission of a hyphen in one’s name. These errors may not be the voters’ fault or related to the voters’ ineligibility but can lead to their disenfranchisement.

This policy is unnecessary. Georgia already allows those with a “mismatch” who register within 30 days of an election to show ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot. However, it arbitrarily doesn’t allow other voters with a “mismatch” to do the same.

The Impact on Minority Voters:

Since July of 2013, tens of thousands of registration applications canceled under the Georgia’s policy. During that time, more whites have applied to vote in Georgia than blacks, yet black applicants comprise 63.6 percent of all cancellations under this policy. Overall, minority voters are eight times more likely than white voters to be rejected under Georgia’s policy.

Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans are more likely to be affected because of name variations, hyphenated names or inaccurate name transposition by the state.  Since the SSA database doesn’t tell voters what caused the “mismatch,” voters may not even know how to resolve the problem. For example, Amos Boadai, an immigrant from Ghana naturalized in 2011, had his voter application disqualified after his information failed to match a corresponding field in the SSA database, but never discovered why.

This policy results in real-life disenfranchisement of eligible active voters. Elton Garcia-Castillo received a “mismatch” letter but thought he could resolve it on Election Day.  When he arrived at the polls in 2015, he was denied the right to vote.

Legal Arguments

Georgia claims it passed this policy to “assure the identity and eligibility of voters and to prevent fraudulent or erroneous registrations.” But there’s scant evidence of voter fraud in Georgia and voter verification is already adequately protected by other less burdensome and less discriminatory election procedures. If left in place, this policy would continue to disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible voters throughout Georgia, silencing their voice and preventing them from participating in the 2016 presidential election.   

The Campaign Legal Center has partnered with Project Vote, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Institute for Public Representation to file suit against Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, in an effort to prevent this disenfranchisement.

In our lawsuit, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Kemp¸ we argue that Georgia’s violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Our lawsuit calls on the Georgia federal district court to immediately block the state from enforcing the current administrative policy and put voters back on the rolls before voter registration closes in the state in October.

Update: In response to the lawsuit and motion for emergency relief, and before a hearing was even held, the Georgia agreed to suspend the exact-match requirement and reinstate from “cancelled” to “pending” status every voter cancelled under the policy dating back to October 2014. Voters whose registration status is “pending” will now be able to cast a regular ballot in the November 2016 by simply showing appropriate ID at the polls.

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