2017 Archives
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November 3--  Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has responded to lawyers who sued the state over voter registration.  Posted below is his response followed by a news release from the lawyers.

JUDGE INCLUDES POLL MANAGERS IN GEORGIA’S EXISTING NON-CITIZEN VERIFICATION PROCESS 

ATLANTA – In Georgia, voters who are flagged as potential non-citizens are able to show proof of citizenship to deputy registrars at the polls and vote. Today, District Judge Eleanor Ross ordered that poll managers also be allowed to verify citizenship documentation. Once citizenship is verified, a voter can cast a regular ballot at the polls.

"Georgia already has a process in place to resolve citizenship issues at the polls. Thanks to liberal advocacy groups who wait until the eleventh hour to sue, we were forced to waste time and taxpayer dollars for the judge to tell us to do something that we already do," stated Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Federal and state law require states to compare information submitted with a voter registration application to information on file at the Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. Unless proof of citizenship is submitted with the voter registration application, a voter may be flagged as a non-citizen if the Department of Driver Services’ records indicate that the person is not a U.S. citizen. The Georgia Department of Driver Services is REAL ID compliant, meaning that their records regarding citizenship meet the standards prescribed by the federal government. When a voter is shown to be a potential non-citizen, the voter is sent a letter with instructions on how to resolve the issue as soon as possible with their county election officials. Before today’s ruling, county officials had already sent these letters to all pending voters instructing them to resolve this verification issue as soon as possible. Voters may also resolve the issue at their polling place with proper proof of citizenship.

The previous process to resolve citizenship issues at the polls was in place pursuant to an agreement between the Secretary of State’s office and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The Lawyers’ Committee argued that the process to which they had previously agreed was insufficient.

Individuals who have been flagged and placed in pending status due to citizenship may vote in the November 6, 2018 general election in three ways:

1. Prior to voting, and pursuant to the instruction in the notification letter to the individual received from the county board of registrars, the individual may provide the county registrar with a document showing the individual is a United States citizen via personal delivery, mail, email as an attachment, or a fax.

2. At a polling location, the individual may provide proof of identity and acceptable proof of citizenship to a poll manager or a deputy registrar, and after verification, cast a regular ballot.

3. At a polling location, if the applicant is unable to present one of the accepted forms of proof of citizenship at a polling location, then the applicant (a) may return to the polling location with sufficient proof of citizenship and follow (2) above, or (b) shall be offered the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot. If the applicant casts a provisional ballot, the applicant must then present proof of citizenship in person, or via fax, email, or text message to the county registrar before the close of the provisional ballot period on the Friday following the election.

Additional information, including a list of acceptable proof of citizenship documents, is available at the Secretary of State’s webpage. If you are a voter who is pending due to an issue with citizenship, contact your county board of registrars. Contact information for your county board of registrars is available here. Voters in pending status due to citizenship issue may also contact Holly Smith or Jansen Head at the Secretary of State’s Office Elections Division at (404) 656-2871 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

U.S. Court of Appeals Denies Georgia’s Bid to Overturn Decision Halting Unconstitutional Mail Ballot Rejections Based on Alleged Signature Mismatches

Court’s Decision Provides Relief to Voters Whose Absentee Ballots were Rejected due to Alleged Signature Mismatch

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision that keeps in place a federal district court judge’s order finding a portion of a Georgia absentee ballot processing statute unconstitutional and prohibiting county elections officials from rejecting absentee ballots due to an alleged signature mismatch. 

“At every turn, we have seen officials across Georgia resort to petty, burdensome and discriminatory measures to lock minority voters out of the 2018 midterm election cycle, and the mass rejection of absentee ballots is another example of this," said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We secured emergency relief in the district court protecting many absentee voters who were unfairly rejected and Secretary Brian Kemp chose to appeal to the Eleventh Circuit nonetheless.  We are pleased that the Eleventh Circuit has rejected Kemp's attempt to deny relief for voters.  The court’s decision protects absentee voters in Georgia whose right to vote was going to be taken away from them due to an alleged signature mismatch.  This is a victory for some absentee voters in Georgia whose ballots will now be counted.”

The court of appeals sided with the plaintiffs and refused to stay the district court’s decision by a 2-1 vote, while noting that written opinions are to follow.  The judges on the panel were Gerald Bard Tjoflat, Jill Pryor, and Kevin Newsom.  Their decision upholds an order issued by the district court that provides for a notification and remedy process permitting voters with allegedly mismatched signatures to verify their eligibility information so that their ballots can be counted.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Coalition for Good Governance and represent the Martin plaintiffs in the case.  They include Georgia voters, candidates, and the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, who are asking the Court to intervene to assure fair treatment for eligible voters whose ballots were being rejected by officials because of perceived signature discrepancies and other innocent mistakes on the ballot envelope.  There is currently no indication as to whether the Defendants, who include Secretary of State Kemp and other named Georgia election officials, will appeal the appeals court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

“Voters whose ballots had been rejected have told us that they were able to get erroneous signature issues cured at their county election office almost instantly with minimal effort after the Court’s order was issued. There is simply no good faith reason for Secretary Kemp to fight a simple, efficient cure process that assures that eligible voters’ ballots will be counted. For those many voters whose ballots are not available for court-ordered cure for signature discrepancies, we urge them to go to the polling place on Tuesday and cast their replacement vote in person if at all possible. Coalition of Good Governance and individual voter plaintiffs call on Gwinnett County to immediately and voluntarily stop rejecting ballots over harmless small errors on the return ballot envelope. Gwinnett County should accept and count all ballots rejected to date unless there is a meaningful question of fraud related to specific ballots. This would add well over 1,000 eligible ballots to Tuesday’s count,” said Marilyn Marks, Executive Director of Coalition for Good Governance, a non-partisan, non-profit organization supporting the lawsuit.

“We are gratified that the Eleventh Circuit has agreed that the effective and sensible relief order by Judge May should continue in effect,” said Bruce P. Brown, an attorney representing the Martin Plaintiffs.  

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is also engaged in litigation with Secretary Brian Kemp over the exact match scheme. Today, the Lawyers' Committee secured a victory that will ensure that more than 3000 naturalized citizens will not face unreasonable and unlawful burdens in order to vote this election cycle.