The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Maria Archuleta, ACLU, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666;
Debbie Seagraves, ACLU of Georgia, (770) 303-8111

ACLU Challenges Illegal Voter Disfranchisement In Georgia

Group Represents Voters Unlawfully Refused Absentee Ballots In Jail


American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in a federal court today
challenging the illegal disfranchisement of two Georgia voters who were
refused absentee ballots in the November 2008 election while
incarcerated in DeKalb County Jail for minor offenses. The two DeKalb
County residents were barred from receiving ballots because of a
Georgia law prohibiting absentee ballots from being sent to an address
other than a resident's permanent mailing address except in cases when
the voter is out of the county on Election Day.

"Because of an arcane and
unconstitutional statute, our clients were wrongfully robbed of
participating in this last historic presidential election," said Nancy
Abudu, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "In
the state of Georgia, individuals incarcerated in jails retain their
right to vote. It's both absurd and unfair that nothing would have
prevented our clients from voting had they been incarcerated in jails
outside the county of their residence."

According to the ACLU's lawsuit,
filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia,
the denial of absentee ballots to the ACLU's clients violated their
rights to equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution.
Defendants in the lawsuit include Georgia Secretary of State Karen
Handel and the DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections.

One of the individuals the ACLU is
representing is Hassan Swann, a registered voter and resident of DeKalb
County, who during the 2008 presidential election was incarcerated in
DeKalb County Jail under a DUI charge. He gave his absentee ballot
application to jail officials, and they submitted it for him. However,
because he was jailed in the same county he resides in, DeKalb County
elections officials denied Swann's request to receive an absentee
ballot at the jail. As a result, he was unable to vote in the November
2008 elections.

"I will never get the chance to go
back and make my voice heard," said Swann. "It's especially disturbing
to me that my vote was taken away because I was jailed in my hometown.
I regret that I had a DUI, but that offense didn't take away my right
to vote and wouldn't have if I had been jailed on the other side of the

"Every eligible voter in Georgia,
including those who are in jail, has the right to exercise his or her
vote," said Chara Fisher Jackson, Legal Director of the ACLU of
Georgia. "We hope the court strikes down this law that is both
ridiculous and illegal."

Attorneys on the case, Swann et al. v. Baker et al.,
are Abudu and Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project,
Jackson of the ACLU of Georgia, and Atlanta civil rights attorneys Neil
Bradley and Brian Spears.

A copy of today's legal complaint is available at:

More information about the ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666