Justice officials also seek Georgia voter info as critics raise alarm


The U.S. Justice Department has asked Georgia to explain how it updates and tracks voter registration records as well as removes voters from its rolls who should no longer be eligible to vote.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office confirmed it received a three-page letter from the head of the department’s voting section seeking the information as part of a national request under the National Voter Registration Act. At least 44 states are believed to have received the letters, which in some cases also seek data on how many voters were removed from the rolls under a specific time period.

Georgia’s letter, however, relates specifically to its policies and regulations. Officials said they are still working on their response and have not yet sent an answer. The department requested the information within 30 days of the letter’s June 28 mailing.

The letter coincides with separate requests for Georgia voter data by President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity, which the president formed in May to investigate alleged acts of voter fraud after he made unsubstantiated claims of “millions” of illegal votes being cast during last year’s presidential election.

Justice Department officials have said their request is unrelated to the work of the voter fraud panel. Civil rights groups have raised alarms over both, saying they fear the collected information could be used to purge voting rolls and make it harder to register to vote.

“This for a lot of us takes us back to the days when African-Americans went in to vote and they were asked to count jelly beans in a jar, and say how many jelly beans were in the jar before they were given the opportunity to vote,” said state Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, who with other members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus on Thursday sought to reassure voters that they would protect their private information.

Bruce said he was most upset that the voter fraud panel had asked states to provide voters’ voting histories if that information was available.

“Whether you voted as a Democrat or whether you voted as a Republican, why is that relevant to whether or not there was fraud during voting?” Bruce said. “To me, things like that are saying, ‘We want to do something with that information to make sure that we have an advantage whenever the next election comes up — and that the other side has a disadvantage.’”

Election experts across the country have said there is no evidence of any widespread voter fraud. Officials from the Secretary of State’s Office have also said there were no illegal votes cast in Georgia.

Georgia officials said some — but not all — of the requested information is already publicly available under state law for a standard fee of $250. They have requested payment of that fee before the state will process the request. State records show the federal panel is one of 607 entities — others include Harvard University, political parties and private data companies — that have legally sought all or parts of Georgia’s public voter data file within the past 18 months.

State law allows information such as voter names, addresses, race and gender, among other data points, to be included on the list. Georgia does not require registration by party, but voters can request party-specific ballots during primary elections — such a request would be noted in the file. Since a voter’s ballot is secret, however, there are no records that show who a voter voted for in any election.

Georgia will not share information considered private under state law such as registered voters’ driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers.

As for the Justice Department’s questions over how Georgia manages its voter rolls, under state law, registered voters are mailed a confirmation notice following a period of more than three years of “no contact” with election officials. If voters do not respond to the notice within 30 days, they are designated as inactive — something that does not prevent them from voting and does not change their registration status.

If voters then remain inactive for two federal election cycles, meaning they have not voted or had contact with election officials for at least an additional four years, they are removed from voting rolls. This would include voters who have moved to another state or who have died.

A federal judge in March dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the state’s “trigger” for contacting voters violated federal voting laws. The Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause, which are appealing the ruling, claimed voters have a constitutional right not to vote. The groups said state officials should not demand confirmation of address if they have no reason to believe a voter had moved or died other than that they had not cast a ballot.

U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr., however, said the state had taken a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” approach in trying to reach voters who had not cast a recent ballot to confirm their addresses. Georgia’s law had been cleared for use by the Justice Department in 1997.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Mayor Reed puts airport exec on leave amid concerns over contracts
Mayor Reed puts airport exec on leave amid concerns over contracts

A high-ranking official at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been placed on administrative leave after the mayor’s office learned that his wife is doing business with an airport subcontractor. A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed said Friday that the action was taken against Cortez Carter, deputy general manager at the airport, whose...
The Week: Blank says kneeling should not be seen as disrespect
The Week: Blank says kneeling should not be seen as disrespect

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank offered his own interpretation of protests NFL players have staged this season by kneeling during the national anthem. “It’s very clear that the players have no interest whatsoever in being disrespectful to the flag or the anthem,” Blank told GPB’s Ricky Bevington this past week. &ldquo...
Dunwoody man goes from battling brain cancer to DNR hunting consultant
Dunwoody man goes from battling brain cancer to DNR hunting consultant

When Chip Madren was in seventh grade, doctors told his family the type of brain cancer he had gave him about two more years to live. It was his love of hunting that caused him to fight for his life, his mother said, after being promised a trip to Montana when he got better. “He was not fighting well up until that time,” Lea Madren said...
Move for freer political speech divides Georgia’s religious community
Move for freer political speech divides Georgia’s religious community

It’s a regular ritual on Sundays before big votes: Candidates fan out to churches across the state, take prominent perches near the pulpit and receive warm applause from parishioners. And preachers inevitably shower them with kind words, though they stop short of much more lest they cross an invisible line. That’s exactly what happened...
Georgia’s craft brewers would win big in Senate tax bill
Georgia’s craft brewers would win big in Senate tax bill

The U.S. Senate’s new tax bill would give Georgia’s small craft breweries some holiday cheer months after a watershed state law provided a major economic boon to beer makers and liquor distillers. The would-be Christmas present comes in the form of a proposed tax decrease, which industry advocates say would put thousands of dollars into...
More Stories