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
Stacie B. Royster, Lawyers' Committee, (202) 662-8317;

ACLU Intervenes in Georgia Voting Rights Act Challenge


The American Civil Liberties Union, the
ACLU of Georgia and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
(Lawyers' Committee) filed a motion late yesterday in a Washington, D.C.
federal court to intervene in a challenge to the Voting Rights Act
brought by the state of Georgia. The civil rights coalition is defending
the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Act and challenging the
state's flawed and racially discriminatory voter-registration practices.

Section 5 has protected racial and
language minorities' access to voting across the South and the nation
since 1965 and requires some states with a history of discrimination in
voting procedures to submit new procedures for federal review before
they are implemented.

"The many U.S. citizen minority
voters in Georgia who were incorrectly flagged as non-citizens under the
state's voter-verification procedures can attest to the fact that
discrimination in voting continues and the need for Section 5 remains,"
said Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

The coalition filed the motion to
intervene in the case, Georgia v.
Holder, on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Georgia
Association of Black Elected Officials; Coalition for the People's
Agenda; Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks; Edward Dubose, President of
the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP; and Helen Butler, Executive
Director of the Coalition for the People's Agenda.

The state's questionable
voter-registration procedures rely on error-ridden government databases
for citizenship verification and require birth certificates and other
documents as proof of citizenship that many people, especially students,
minorities and the elderly cannot easily access.

Shortly before the last presidential
election, the procedures in place at the time resulted in thousands of
U.S. citizens being incorrectly flagged as non-citizens and subject to
being denied the right to vote. A federal court in Georgia blocked the
procedures in October 2008 pending Section 5 review after a coalition of
voting rights groups, including the ACLU and Lawyers' Committee,
challenged them in a lawsuit, Morales
v. Handel.

In May 2009, the Department of
Justice blocked the procedures that mandated the use of the flawed
voter-verification databases after review under Section 5, citing their
discriminatory impact on minority voters.

"Without Section 5's preclearance
protections, there is no doubt that racial and language minorities in
Georgia and other covered jurisdictions would be subject to new forms of
discrimination in voting," said Robert A. Kengle, an attorney with the
Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee.

"These flawed procedures would burden
or deny the right to vote to many thousands of eligible Georgia
voters," said Chara Fisher Jackson, Legal Director of the ACLU of
Georgia. "We are confident that the federal court in the District of
Columbia will block Georgia's discriminatory election procedures and
uphold the Voting Rights Act."

Attorneys on the case, Georgia v. Holder, include McDonald
and Meredith Bell-Platts of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Fisher
Jackson of the ACLU of Georgia, Art Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation's
Capital, and Kengle, Jon Greenbaum and Mark A. Posner of the Lawyers'

The motion for intervention can be
found online at:

The DOJ letter blocking the state's
voter verification procedures can be found online 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