Tuesday, February 23, 2010

GA Secretary of State Kemp Announces Intent to File Suit against Obama Justice Department

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has again failed to administratively preclear the State of Georgia’s submission of its voter verification process. As a result, the State will exercise its right to seek preclearance of the voter verification process by bringing an action for a declaratory judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain states and jurisdictions, including Georgia, to obtain permission from the federal government prior to enforcing any change affecting any practice or procedure with respect to voting. The State may seek such "preclearance" of a change affecting voting by filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia or by submitting the change to the DOJ.

“The State of Georgia will no longer watch the Obama Justice Department play politics with our election processes and protections. The Justice Department is denying Georgia’s legal requirement to verify the information provided by new voter registration applicants,” said Secretary Kemp.

Georgia implemented the voter verification process in April 2007 at the direction of the DOJ in order to comply with requirements in the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). However, since the 2008 Presidential election, the Justice Department has twice prevented further use of the process.

Given the DOJ’s actions with respect to Georgia's implementation of the voter verification process, Secretary Kemp will ask Attorney General Thurbert Baker to bring a similar declaratory judgment action for preclearance of Senate Bill 86, signed into law in May 2009. Senate Bill 86 requires those registering to vote to submit one of several forms of proof of United States citizenship with their application. Applicants may use a driver’s license number, birth certificate, U.S. passport, U.S. naturalization documents or alien registration number, Bureau of Indian Affairs card as well as other documents.

Secretary Kemp added, “The voter verification process and Senate Bill 86 are common sense measures to ensure voter registration applicants are who they say they are, and that applicants are U.S. citizens.”

Senate Bill 86 was modeled after a similar law in Arizona, which has already received Section 5 preclearance.

Secretary Kemp has asked Attorney General Thurbert Baker to appoint a Special Assistant Attorney General to represent the State in the legal proceedings.

Background:

The voter verification process checks five criteria provided by first time applicants by mail who do not provide identification with the application 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 and the 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.

Brian Kemp was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2010. 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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