Wednesday, August 12, 2009

State of Georgia Submits Voter Verification Process to U.S. Department of Justice for Reconsideration

Secretary of State Handel Calls on DOJ to Approve Georgia’s Critical Voter Roll Protections

Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel today announced that the State of Georgia has asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to reconsider its May 2009 objection of preclearance for two critical voter verification processes utilized in the November 2008 General Election.

As part of the process for seeking preclearance, a state can ask the DOJ for reconsideration of a submission that has been denied, or request preclearance before the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C.

“I do not believe there is anything discriminatory in verifying voter information and citizenship,” Secretary Handel said. “I strongly disagreed with the Department of Justice’s decision to deny preclearance. It is my hope that the Department of Justice will review this request, with the information and data provided, and grant preclearance to the State of Georgia for these verification processes.”

“It is absolutely critical that Georgia protects the integrity of its voter registration rolls by having a mechanism to verify the identification and eligibility of applicants to participate in our elections,” Secretary Handel said. “We also look forward to utilizing these common sense processes that give the State the ability to verify the identity and citizenship status of applicants who previously indicated to DDS that they were not U.S. citizens.”

The State’s voter verification process checks five criteria provided by new voter registration applicants with information in the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) database or the Social Security Administration database. These criteria include first name, last name, date of birth, driver’s license number, or last four digits of the applicant’s Social Security number. Additionally, if the applicant previously reported to DDS that he or she is not a U.S. citizen, that person is asked by their county registrar to provide proof of citizenship. As required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the State of Georgia must receive DOJ preclearance prior to making any change in election law or procedure.

In October 2008, a number of activist organizations, including MALDEF and the ACLU, filed a lawsuit to prevent Georgia from verifying the eligibility of applicants to register and vote in the November General Election, including whether those individuals were citizens of the United States.

A U.S. District Court judge and a federal three judge panel denied motions by MALDEF and ACLU; directed the State to continue the verification process; and acknowledged the State’s requirements to verify information under the Help America Vote Act.

The full voter verification process, which included citizenship, was in place prior to the 2008 General Election, and no eligible voter was denied their right to cast a ballot. The 2008 General Election was the largest in Georgia’s history, and featured record turnout among even minority voters with the citizenship verification program in place. Turnout among Hispanic and African-American voters increased 140 percent and 42 percent, respectively, over the 2004 General Election.

Karen Handel was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2007. The Secretary of State's office offers important services to our citizens and our business community. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.
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