By Michael King | Channel 11 NBC - Atlanta
ATLANTA - The ACLU of Georgia is challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the secretary of state's office over their list maintenance procedures and compliance with federal and state law.
In particular, they -- along with several other organizations, including the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta and the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda -- are pointing out that nearly 160,000 Georgia voters who have moved within the same county have recently been threatened with being placed on "inactive" status if they did not respond within 30 days, in violation of both federal and state law.
What are the best practices for updating voter rolls?
Pending litigation in the Fulton County Superior Court is tied to this issue, and a letter was sent to the ACLU by Kemp's office indicating that they were taking steps to ensure that those voting records would remain in "active" status and that the development of a system was underway to update those in-county voter registrations.
"In Georgia, when a registered voter updates the address on their driver's license, that update is treated as a change of address for voter registration purposes unless the voter affirmatively chooses to opt out of having the address change forwarded," the letter said in part.
But the letter did not detail what steps were being taken or what sort of system was being developed to ensure that those voters would not lose their "active" voter status.
How are voter rolls purged and why?
In addition, the ACLU points out that about 300 voters from the Savannah suburb of Thunderbolt -- more than 10 percent of that city's population -- were about to be purged from the voter rolls at the end of August, based on the fact that their names did not appear on the city's water bills or other grounds regarding alleged change of residences for those voters.
The Chatham County Board of Registrars responded to the ACLU's request by canceling the planned purge.
It likewise said that the secretary of state's office would be issuing "educational materials to ensure there is a uniform process throughout the state for voter removal that is consistent and compliant with the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act)."
What steps need to be taken?
Due to the perceived disenfranchisement of large numbers of voters in the state -- especially ahead of the upcoming November election, the ACLU is asking that Kemp's office take a number of steps:
- That the secretary's office identify the exact steps his office has taken to ensure that the nearly 160,000 intra-county voters' registrations have remained in "active" status.
- That the office to provide a timeline of when they will update the voter registration of all of the intra-county voters who have moved -- not just some of them -- to reflect the most recent address information on file.
- That the office send as soon as possible curative notices to each of the nearly 160,000 intra-county movers assuring them that their voter registrations remain active; that their current voter registrations have been updated to reflect their latest address on file along with an indication of what address that is; and that they have the opportunity to verify or correct that information without consequence if they do not respond.
- That they provide a copy of the courtesy notice they will be issuing to all future intra-county movers, pursuant to federal and state law, which would inform them that their voter registration is being updated to reflect their recent in-county move along with their new voting precinct and polling place information. The new notice would also indicate that they have the opportunity to verify or correct that information without consequence if they do not respond.
- That the secretary's office issue public service announcements on their website and in the media directed toward black, Hispanic and Asian American voters informing voters of their rights and also letting intra-county movers know that their voting status remains "active," along with information on where they can obtain updated information.
- And that the secretary of state's office provides copies of any "educational materials" they will be providing in order to ensure a uniform process across the state for voter removal that is consistent and compliant with the NVRA.
The ACLU wants to make sure that the fundamental voting rights of the nearly 160,000 eligible voters remain protected. The ACLU points out in their letter, "Our most immediate concern is with the intra-county movers who received one of these erroneous notices, which can be confusing and intimidating, especially to voters with less income or educational background."