Common Cause, Georgia NAACP File Suit Challenging Voter Purges

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
State Law Jeopardizes Voting Rights of Hundreds of Thousands of Georgians, Groups Charge

Georgia’s secretary of state has illegally purged tens of thousands of voters from the state’s registration rolls and could remove hundreds of thousands more unless Georgia law is brought in line with requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), Common Cause and the Georgia NAACP charge in a lawsuit filed late Wednesday.

“When citizens register to vote, they fairly assume that unless they move, their registration will remain valid,” said Brinkley Serkedakis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia.  “But following Georgia law, Secretary of State Brian Kemp is removing people from the rolls – without notice — if they miss a series of elections. The law and state policy put hundreds of thousands of Georgians in jeopardy of not having their voices heard in the upcoming election.”

Filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the suit seeks an injunction to block Kemp from further purges based on a failure to vote and an order restoring to the rolls any voters who’ve been purged under the state’s current policy.

“This isn’t the first, second, third or even the fourth time that Kemp has put partisan politics over Georgians’ right to vote.  Now Kemp is illegally kicking certain citizens off of voters rolls” said Francys Johnson, Georgia NAACP President and Statesboro Civil Right Attorney.

“Brian Kemp’s tenure as Georgia’s Secretary of State has been marked by other violations of the law and serious errors that created havoc for voters.  Most of the issues flagged by the NAACP and other voting rights groups have been about the lack of transparency; flawed processes; and failure to consult stakeholders” said Johnson.

The suit highlights an apparent conflict between state and federal voting laws. The NVRA specifically prohibits states from purging individuals for having failed to vote; however, Georgia law places voters who’ve missed voting for the previous three years on an “inactive” list and then purges those who fail to verify their addresses and do not vote in the next two general elections.

Due to the state’s practice, as of June 2015, over 800,000 Georgians had been placed on the inactive list and were in danger of being purged.  

Once purged, the voter must re-register in order to regain his or her right to vote.

The suit alleges that in addition to violating the NVRA, the state’s practice is unconstitutional. Because casting a vote is considered a form of speech, the purges also violate the free speech guarantee in the First Amendment of the Constitution, Common Cause and the NAACP contend.

Atlanta attorney Emmet J. Bondurant and the firm of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore are representing Common Cause and the NAACP in the suit. Bondurant is a member of Common Cause’s National Governing Board.

For more information, contact Brinkley Serkedakis, executive director, Common Cause Georgia; 202-701-3615