Project Vote and partners announced a settlement today in a lawsuit which challenged Georgia’s exact-match voter registration verification scheme. The lawsuit resulted in the restoration of more than 42,000 previously purged voters to the rolls and the settlement brings several new reforms.
The lawsuit (filed on behalf of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Atlanta, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP) alleged Georgia’s “exact match” system violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and deprived eligible Georgians of their fundamental right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The system required all letters and numbers in voter applicant’s voter cards to exactly match their information on the state’s databases. If even a single letter, number, hyphen, space, or apostrophe did not exactly match the database information and the applicant failed to correct the mismatch within 40 days, the application was automatically rejected, even if the applicant was eligible to vote. The flawed process led to the cancellation of tens of thousands of applications from eligible applicants with a significantly higher number of applicants of color being rejected.
“For example, of the approximately 34,874 voter registration applicants whose applications were cancelled between July 2013 and July 15, 2016, approximately 22,189 (63.6 percent) identified as Black, 2,752 (7.9 percent) identified as Latino, 1,665 (4.8 percent) identified as Asian-American, and 4,748 (13.6 percent) identified as White,” the release reports.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Secretary of State agreed to implement reforms to help ensure that eligible Georgians will no longer be denied the right to register and vote as a result of data entry errors, typos and other database matching issues that do not bear upon the applicant’s eligibility to vote. The reforms were partially implemented before the November 2016 election to give the 42,000 applicants an opportunity to register to vote and cast a ballot. Learn more about the terms of the settlement here.
“This case illustrates the importance of careful, sensible registration procedures,” said Michelle Kanter Cohen, election counsel for Project Vote in today’s release. “No American citizen should be denied their fundamental right to vote because of discriminatory practices or bureaucratic mistakes.”