Currently, when Georgians register to vote, their information is verified against the Department of Driver’s Services (DDS) or Social Security Administration (SSA) for an exact match of the applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number and last four digits of their Social Security number.
However, data entry errors or problems with the matching algorithm cause applications to be denied, even when the voter is who they say they are. If a hyphen is removed, if a name is transliterated differently, if an initial is dropped, if any small detail does not match, the voter will be denied their right to vote, through no fault of their own.
This disproportionately impacts voters of color. There were nearly 35,000 applicants tossed out from 2013 to 2016 due to this verification process. Of those, the AJC reports, black voters were eight times more likely to be impacted, while Latino and Asian-American voters were six times more likely to have their application denied.
The lawsuit notes that this is a “notoriously unreliable method of verification,” due to any number of small errors related to data entry, and not someone’s eligibility to vote. The lawsuit calls this, an “illegal precondition to voter registration.” The lawsuit also highlights the historical voter disenfranchisement people of color have faced in this state, as well, in seeking to ensure a fair, equitable, accessible voter registration process.
In fact, in a 2009 report the SSA office even admitted that, “many problems exist with voter registration list maintenance,” and that “rigid matching requirements often result in erroneous removal of otherwise legitimate voters.”
Kemp’s office is, of course, calling the lawsuit, “an effort by liberal groups to disrupt voter registration just weeks before November’s important election.”
The Secretary of State should consider that perhaps it’s just an effort by Civil Rights groups to ensure people of color do not continue to be disenfranchised — as they historically have been — before November’s important election.
“There is simply no legitimate reason why this flawed process should be allowed to continue to disenfranchise eligible Georgians,” said Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, in a press release. “The evidence shows that the process is disproportionately preventing African American, Latino and Asian American applicants from completing the registration process and is denying them their fundamental right to vote.”
The lawsuit — filed by the NAACP, Project Vote, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta — calls for an injunction to prevent this voter disenfranchisement practice from impacting any more Georgia voters.