ATLANTA – Today, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the ACLU of Georgia’s appeal of the Fulton County Superior Court’s ruling that imposed an extra-constitutional two-year waiting period for U.S. citizens who wish to be General Assembly candidates. The Fulton County Superior Court’s decision ignored the text of the Georgia Constitution, which only requires that candidates be U.S. citizens “[a]t the time of their election.”
"The ACLU of Georgia took Ms. Palacios’ case because treating some citizens differently than white citizens because of their race or national origin is a part of Georgia’s past that must stay in the past,” stated Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia.
“We’re disappointed that the Georgia Supreme Court has failed to defend the state constitution,” stated Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “However, the fight is far from over. We will continue fighting for the sacred, fundamental right to vote for every Georgian including the right of newly naturalized U.S. citizens to run for public office.”
The language of the Georgia State Constitution is clear.
Paragraph III. Qualifications of members of General Assembly(b) At the time of their election, the members of the House of Representatives shall be citizens of the United States, shall be at least 21 years of age, shall have been citizens of this state for at least two years, and shall have been legal residents of the territory embraced within the district from which elected for at least one year. [Emphasis added.]
Maria Palacios, a candidate for Georgia State House District 29, undisputedly became a United States citizen in 2017 and has been a legal permanent resident in Georgia since 2009. Therefore, Ms. Palacios satisfies the United States citizenship requirement set forth in the Georgia State Constitution, a copy of which is located on the Secretary of State’s website.
Ignoring the plain text of the Qualifications Clause, the Secretary of State issued a final decision on May 18, 2018, that unilaterally imposed an extra-constitutional requirement for General Assembly candidates to be citizens of the United States for at least two years prior to the election rather than only “at the time of the election” as the Georgia Constitution plainly states. In effect, the Secretary of State is imposing an extra-constitutional two-year waiting period on new United States citizens.