Victory in Georgia: 50,000 Voters Returned to Voting Rolls in Time for Election

Voting rights

Things are looking up for our democracy in Georgia.

More than 50,000 eligible voters in Georgia whose voter registration applications were improperly cancelled are now rightfully back on the voting rolls, just in time to cast a ballot in the 2016 election.

Campaign Legal Center and partner groups had filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, over the state’s registration verification process that required that all of the information on a voter’s registration application to exactly match information in the state’s Department of Drivers Service or the Social Security Administration databases.  Discrepancies as small as a missing apostrophe or hyphen, or missing or transposed letters would cause a mismatch, and if the applicant failed to correct the mismatch within 40 days, their registration was automatically cancelled.

The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of eligible Georgia voters. The policy had an undeniable disproportionate effect on black, Asian American and Latino registrants. Black applicants, for example, were eight times more likely to be cancelled under the policy than white applicants.

CLC, in coalition with other voting rights groups, and on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, immediately sought emergency relief from the discriminatory policy. The lawsuit alleged that Georgia’s exact-match protocol violated the Voting Rights Act and denied eligible Georgians their fundamental right to vote under the U.S. Constitution.

In response to the lawsuit and motion for emergency relief, and before a hearing was even held, 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 election by simply showing appropriate ID at the polls.

CLC and its allies remain committed to extending this victory beyond the November election and ending Georgia’s discriminatory exact-match requirement for future elections as well.  

Molly is a Senior Legal Counsel on CLC's Litigation team.