In what civil rights groups celebrated as a massive victory over one of the many egregious voter suppression schemes by Georgia Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, a federal court on Friday ruled that thousands of Georgians who were improperly flagged as "non-citizens" in state voter databases must be allowed to cast a ballot in next Tuesday's midterm elections.
"Secretary Brian Kemp, who is already acting as the fox guarding the hen house, given his dual roles of Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, must play fair."
—Sara Henderson, Common Cause Georgia"This is a major victory for Georgia voters and instills hope that our democracy will function as it should in Georgia on election day," declared Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel for voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), one of the organizations that sued Kemp on behalf of over 3,000 voters.
"Secretary Brian Kemp, who is already acting as the fox guarding the hen house, given his dual roles of Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate, must play fair," added Common Cause Georgia executive director Sara Henderson. "Today, the court has instructed him to do so, and Georgians can rejoice that their voices will be heard in this election."
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, added that while she is "thrilled that this order will allow over 3,000 voters to vote this Tuesday without being subjected to unnecessary hurdles," there are still many more right-wing voter suppression schemes to knock down in Georgia. In total, more than 50,000 voter registration applications have been put on hold by Kemp under the "exact match" system.
"The court has recognized... that our clients have a significant chance of proving that Secretary Kemp's 'exact match' scheme interferes with our precious right to vote," Clarke concluded. "This is just the tip of the iceberg of the sort of obstacles that are being placed in front of voters—disproportionately minority voters. We will continue to fight to knock every one of them down."
#GeorgiaVoters we did it!!! Court has ordered the Sec. of State to permit eligible voters who registered to vote, but who are inaccurately flagged as non-citizens, to vote with a regular ballot. Now is NOT the time to give up! Your vote matters! @866OURVOTE #protectthevote pic.twitter.com/aZhgoACXlv
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— Lawyers' Committee 866-OUR-VOTE (@LawyersComm) November 2, 2018
BREAKING: We won! We have fully defeated Brian Kemp in our exact match lawsuit securing ALL relief we sought for voters. We’ll keep fighting to beat back voter suppression in #Midterms2018. @LawyersComm pic.twitter.com/MZ7Kf1JZsc
— Kristen Clarke 866-OUR-VOTE (@KristenClarkeJD) November 2, 2018
The court's ruling (pdf) on Friday dealt specifically with Georgia's so-called "exact match" law, which automatically marks voter registration applications as "pending" if the information doesn't precisely match driver's license, state ID card, or Social Security records—including minor details like a missing hyphen or middle initial.
Voting rights advocates have denounced the "exact match" system as deeply flawed and error-prone since it passed last year, and opponents of the law characterized Friday's ruling as confirmation that it is overtly discriminatory against minority communities.
"The court clearly recognized the harm that the state's flawed 'exact match' system caused voters, particularly minorities," noted Lang of CLC. "It's especially gratifying that the state is required to take steps to educate registrars and poll managers on how to properly verify voter eligibility."