On Monday, September 18, the ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to Secretary of State Brian Kemp outlining six steps needed to cure the voter intimidation and confusion the Office of the Secretary of State caused when it threatened removal of nearly 160,000 Georgians from the active voter rolls, in violation of federal and state law.
In response to the ACLU of Georgia’s lawsuit which was filed to protect the fundamental right to vote of these Georgians who were flagged for removal simply because they recently moved within the same county, the Secretary’s office wrote that it would restore these Georgians to the active voter rolls but failed to provide details for how his office would do so. Other than to follow the law in the first place, there are no standards to guide how the secretary of state brings his office into compliance with the laws he failed to follow.
“It is the responsibility of the Georgia Secretary of State to ensure that all United States citizens and eligible Georgia voters have, and can easily exercise, their sacred and fundamental right to vote. Our electoral integrity depends on it,” stated Sean J. Young, Legal Director for the ACLU of Georgia.
With the upcoming municipal elections rapidly approaching, the ACLU of Georgia’s most immediate concern is with those voters who moved within a county and received one of these erroneous notices, which can be confusing and intimidating, especially to voters with less income or educational background.
“The best way to cure this injury is for the Secretary of State’s Office to send each of them a follow-up mailing assuring them that they are active, registered voters and are able to vote this November,” Young stated.
Additionally, there were about 300 other Georgia voters that the ACLU of Georgia prevented from being taken off the rolls in the town of Thunderbolt – over 10% of that city’s population. The city had attempted to remove these Georgians from the voter rolls based solely on the fact that their names were not listed on a water bill – which is not a requirement for citizens to exercise their sacred right to vote.
The Chatham County Board of Registrars responded immediately to the ACLU of Georgia’s letters by cancelling the planned purge, confirmed in writing that this violation would be rectified, and that the Secretary of State would be providing educational materials to ensure uniformity and compliance throughout the state.
The ACLU of Georgia’s letter lays out six steps the secretary’s office should take to cure the problems it had created for these nearly 160,000 voters, listed below:
1) Identify the exact “steps” you took to “ensure” that the 159,930 intra-county movers’ registration information stayed in “Active” status.
2) Provide a timeline of when you will update the voter registration information of all 159,930 intra-county movers—not just some of them—to reflect the most recent address information you have on file (which may be the information reflecting their recent intra-county move).
3) Send—as soon as possible—curative notices to all 159,930 intra-county movers:
a) assuring them that they remain active, registered voters and that they are able to vote this November;
b) informing them that their voter registration information has been updated to reflect the latest address the Office of the Secretary of State has on file, and what that address is, and their new voting precinct and polling place; and
c) that they may verify or correct such information, without any consequence if they do not respond.
4) Provide a copy of the courtesy notice the Office of Secretary of State will be issuing to all future intra-county movers pursuant to federal and state law, informing them that their voter registration has been automatically updated to reflect their recent intra-county move, their new voting precinct and polling place, and informing them that they may verify or correct such information but that there will be no consequences if they do not respond. This courtesy notice must be different in form and content than the notice issued to all other movers.
5) Issue Public Service Announcements on the Secretary of State’s website, in the media as well as in smaller media markets directed to Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters—available in all covered languages—informing voters of their rights and ensuring intra-county movers that their registration information remains active and that they are eligible to vote this November; as well as the assets needed for all counties to include this on their websites.
6) Provide copies of the “educational materials” the Secretary will provide to all the counties “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) including materials instructing the counties not to purge voters on the grounds that voters have changed residence (e.g., because their names do not appear on water bills), unless they have complied with the strict procedures set forth in the national motor voter law.