Groups settle Ga. suit alleging black voters wrongfully disqualified


Civil rights groups announced a settlement Wednesday with Hancock County over allegations officials improperly removed African American voters from the rolls ahead of a hotly contested local election.

Groups including the Georgia NAACP and the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a federal lawsuit against the county in December 2015 after hearing from concerned residents. The suit came after the county Board of Elections and Registration, which has a majority of white members, held a dozen hearings ahead of that fall’s election to challenge an estimated 174 of the 988 registered voters in the city of Sparta.

Nearly all of those challenged were black. In some cases, challenges were based on discrepancies in state databases. Others involved residents who had lived their whole lives in Sparta or had never moved out of the county. Others involved unsubstantiated “third party” allegations about individual residents. One elections board member issued her own challenges as a private citizen and then voted to approve those challenges as a member of the board.

Under the agreement, the county will no longer hear third-party challenges to voters’ eligibility and will no longer remove voters based on allegations of a change of address. It will instead follow federal law that requires a waiting period of two federal election cycles before officials may attempt to contact a voter to confirm their address.

The county has agreed to restore to the rolls all voters affected by the challenges who still live in the county. It has also agreed to make reports on local voter challenges to the Lawyers’ Committee for the next five years.

The agreement must be approved by a federal judge.

The elections board’s actions in 2015 came two years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the federal Voting Rights Act. The provision would have otherwise required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to seek approval before making changes to voting rules.

Hancock County, which also clashed with voter advocates over a 2015 proposal to close several polling locations near Sparta, was one of three Georgia counties where federal monitors were stationed during the 2016 presidential election.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Georgia Politics

Your Friday political briefing: Obamacare repeal bill dies; border wall funded; Ga. voter info not yet released
Your Friday political briefing: Obamacare repeal bill dies; border wall funded; Ga. voter info not yet released

Here is what is trending in politics around Georgia and across the nation on Thursday. 1. Senate health care bill voted downThe bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act died on the Senate floor early Friday morning as three Republicans voted to no on the legislation. The promise to produce a bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare ground to...
Ga. judges crack down on smart phones in the courtroom
Ga. judges crack down on smart phones in the courtroom

A council of Georgia judges approved a new rule this week that may make what goes on in their courtroom less transparent to those outside. The rule, known as Rule 22, governs recording and broadcasting of trials and has generally been used by professional journalists looking to get permission for photographers or television cameras to record the proceedings...
Georgia GOP senators walk a tightrope with ‘Skinny Repeal’
Georgia GOP senators walk a tightrope with ‘Skinny Repeal’

A new phrase gripped Georgia advocates for and against Obamacare repeal Thursday — “Skinny Repeal”. After two Senate votes on previous proposals to scale back the 2010 health care law failed solidly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was said to be heading toward this stripped-down incarnation of a bill to roll back portions...
Your Thursday political briefing: Vote-a-rama today; Blue Cross Blue Shield warning; Spicer on ‘DWTS’
Your Thursday political briefing: Vote-a-rama today; Blue Cross Blue Shield warning; Spicer on ‘DWTS’

Here is what is trending in politics around Georgia and across the nation on Thursday. 1. For health care bill, it’s ‘vote-a-rama’ dayLook for a flurry of activity Thursday on health care legislation. The Senate will begin a “vote-a-rama” as the 20 hours of debate on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care...
Long a bastion of transparency, Ga. courts act to dim the lights
Long a bastion of transparency, Ga. courts act to dim the lights

No one is going to accuse judges of enthusiastically embracing modern society. They speak in Latin phrases and trace much of their behavior from the bench back centuries to English common law. Plus, who else wears robes to work? Yet daily they are forced to deal with Twitter. And Facebook. And Periscope. And a tide of technology — from laptops...
More Stories