ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, on behalf of the New Georgia Project and the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, wrote a letter warning the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections that it may have violated the law when it categorically removed all voters who listed as their residence 444 Sycamore Drive, Decatur, GA 30030. Located at that address is the Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Center, which according to its website is freely available for people with mental disabilities who need housing to avoid psychiatric hospitalization.
According to the minutes, the board removed the voters because it decided that the address was not a “residence.” However, as the letter states, neither state nor federal law grants election officials the authority to judge what constitutes housing, especially for those hardest hit by life’s struggles.
As the letter states, “election officials must be vigilant when considering challenges or requests to disenfranchise people that are based on Google Maps or their preconceived notions of what a ‘residence’ looks like.” Furthermore, Georgia courts have recognized that a voter’s residency does not depend solely on how long they stay in one place.
In addition, Georgia law requires that only individual voters – rather than municipalities like the City of Decatur – can file challenges to the qualifications of a registered voter. Yet, the board’s minutes fail to reflect who asked the City of Decatur to remove those voters from the rolls.
“The board needs to explain its actions,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia. “It is morally wrong for government officials to judge where someone calls home.”