In a Victory for Voters, Court Orders Georgia’s Secretary of State to Release Voter Registration Records

By Project Vote September 21, 2016

Kemp Must Produce Documents by Early October

ATLANTA, GA – In a victory for voters and voting rights advocates, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled on Tuesday that a federal lawsuit to ensure the transparency of Georgia’s voter registration records will proceed, and that the state must release certain records under the public disclosure requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993.

In July, the Washington D.C.-based voting rights advocacy group Project Vote—represented pro bono by global law firm Ropes & Gray LLP and Caplan Cobb LLP—filed suit against Secretary of State Brian Kemp in his capacity as Georgia’s chief election official. The lawsuit charges that Georgia has consistently refused to release records that would allow Project Vote and other advocacy groups to ensure that eligible Georgians who apply to become registered voters are not being wrongfully rejected by the state.

Attorneys for Mr. Kemp had filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming—among other arguments—that electronic records requested by the plaintiffs did not fall under the purview of the NVRA, and that the Help America Vote Act of 2002 would preclude such disclosures.

U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey rejected Mr. Kemp’s arguments, and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The court also granted, in part, Project Vote’s request for a preliminary injunction, ordering Mr. Kemp to release most of the records Project Vote requested by October 7.

In its order, the Court recognized that “the purpose of the NVRA’s disclosure provision is to allow the public to oversee voter registration processes to ‘protect the integrity of the electoral process’ and ‘ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.’”

“We are pleased that the court has recognized the merits of this case, and has ordered the prompt release of records,” said Michelle Kanter Cohen, election counsel for Project Vote. “Decisions about who is and is not able to register to vote must be made in the open for our democracy to be fair and accessible.”

“This is an important and encouraging step forward for voters in Georgia,” said Jonathan Ference-Burke of Ropes & Gray. “The NVRA was enacted to secure citizens’ fundamental right to vote, and the opinion correctly recognizes that its public disclosure provision is essential to that purpose. Ropes & Gray is proud to be working with long-time partner Project Vote on this matter.”

James Cobb of Caplan Cobb added, “Judge Duffey’s order is an important acknowledgment of the right of groups like Project Vote —and of all of Georgia’s citizens — to monitor the state’s voter-registration practices.”

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Project Vote is a national nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to building an electorate that accurately represents the diversity of America’s citizenry. Project Vote takes a leadership role in nationwide voting rights and election administration issues, working through research, litigation, and advocacy to ensure that every eligible citizen can register, vote, and cast a ballot that counts.

For more information and interviews, please contact Michael McDunnah at 202-905-1397.