Victory: Clerical Errors will No Longer Disenfranchise Thousands of Georgia Voters

Voter's hand placing ballot into box

Today, an agreement was reached between the state of Georgia and a coalition of civil rights organizations to help ensure that eligible Georgia voters would no longer be denied access to state voting rolls due to clerical errors.

This settlement agreement came as a result of a complaint filed in Sept. 2016 with a U.S. District Court in the case Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Kemp. CLC lawyers were part of the legal team that challenged Georgia’s voter registration verification process. Since 2010, Georgia required all of the letters and numbers in the applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number or last four digits of the Social Security number to exactly match the information in the state’s government databases. If even a single letter, number, hyphen, space, or apostrophe did not exactly match the database information, and the applicant failed to correct the mismatch within 40 days, the application was automatically rejected and the applicant was not placed on the registration rolls - even if they were eligible to vote.

The Georgia voter verification process had a devastating impact on the state of Georgia with a disproportionate effect on African American, Latino and Asian American applicants, who were rejected to vote based on the state’s “exact match” scheme.

Greater than 42,000 applicants were disqualified for failing to meet the state’s onerous requirements, which precluded eligible voters from voting for reasons like minor typos or data entry errors. These reforms, which were partly implemented before the Nov. 8, 2016 general election, gave more than 42,000 previously disqualified applicants, who were otherwise eligible to vote, an opportunity to complete the registration process and cast a ballot.

The settlement will also result in giving thousands of additional applicants whose applications were rejected as a result of the “exact match” system between Oct. 1, 2013 and Oct. 1, 2014 the opportunity to now finalize their voter registration and be able to cast ballots in this year’s elections and elections in the future. Now, these voters will have the opportunity to complete the registration process and cast a ballot in future elections. As a result of this settlement, Georgia will no longer automatically cancel voter registration using the “exact match” standard, which will allow registered voters to present a valid state driver’s license, ID card or other form of acceptable ID at their polling place and cast a ballot.

The fundamental right to vote should never hinge on data entry errors and technicalities. Our systems can and must do better. Thanks to this settlement, tens of thousands of eligible Georgia voters have been restored to the rolls or will now have that opportunity.

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter