Secretary of State's Action Ensures No Democratic Opposition in November General Election
ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia sued the Secretary of State in Superior Court of Fulton County, appealing the Secretary of State’s Friday decision to kick off the ballot Maria Palacios, a Latina-American who has lived in Georgia since 2009 and became a United States citizen last year. Ms. Palacios, a Democrat, is running for state representative in House District 29, a district that is 60% people of color with a 43% Hispanic population. Because Ms. Palacios is the only candidate in the Democratic primary and no write-in candidates are allowed in primaries, forcing her off of the ballot would ensure no Democratic opposition in the November general election.
Georgia’s constitution requires candidates to be a “citizen of the state” for two years prior to being elected to office. The ACLU of Georgia argued to the Secretary of State that Ms. Palacios satisfies the definition of “citizen of the state” because she has resided in Georgia since 2009.
“For centuries, courts around the country have recognized that ‘citizen of a state’ means someone who is either a resident or a domiciliary of that state. The Georgia Constitution requires that candidates for the State House of Representatives be citizens of the state for at least two years at the time of the election,” stated the ACLU of Georgia in its filing to the Superior Court. “Maria Palacios has undisputedly been both a resident and domiciliary of the State of Georgia since 2009, [therefore] she satisfies that legal requirement.”
The Secretary of State, on the other hand, has asserted without citing any judicial authority that Ms. Palacios doesn’t satisfy the constitutional qualification since she became a US citizen last year. As the petition argued, however, courts around the country have long held that United States citizenship is not required to be a citizen of a state.
“The Georgia Constitution allows longtime Georgia residents who become United States citizens to honorably serve their communities as elected leaders, regardless of their party affiliation or national origin,” stated Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “The Secretary of State should uphold the Georgia Constitution’s inclusive vision of democracy, instead of undermining it with deeply flawed legal reasoning.”
The ACLU of Georgia asked the court to reverse the Secretary of State’s decision, and place Ms. Palacios on the November 6, 2018, general election ballot as the Democratic nominee for Georgia State House District 29. The ACLU of Georgia has also asked the court to restore Ms. Palacios to the ballot for the Tuesday, May 22 Democratic Primary, if necessary.