According to a press release from Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Department of Justice has precleared Georgia’s voter verification law, avoiding a drawn out legal battle:
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today announced that following the State’s June 22, 2010 lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the DOJ consented to preclearance of the State’s voter verification process, including verification of U.S. citizenship. After the DOJ consented to the process, the State filed for and received administrative preclearance from the DOJ. The State and the DOJ therefore have now filed a joint request to have the lawsuit dismissed.
“After nearly two years, we can now verify that voter registration applicants are who they say they are and that they are U.S. citizens,” said Secretary Kemp. “When we filed the lawsuit, I was criticized by some because they believed it would be too time-consuming and expensive. However, after waiting for nearly a year and a half for a final administrative decision from the DOJ, I was certain that litigation was the only way to put Georgia in a position to obtain final approval from the federal government of our voter verification procedures. After the litigation was filed, it took less than two months for the DOJ to consent to preclearance of the verification process.”
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Georgia must obtain federal preclearance of any change affecting voting by bringing a declaratory judgment action in federal court or, in the alternative, by submitting the change to the DOJ for administrative preclearance. In October 2008, the Secretary of State’s Office first submitted the verification process to the DOJ for administrative preclearance. After extended administrative review and numerous discussions with representatives of the State, the DOJ denied administrative preclearance of the State’s voter verification process and later refused to withdraw that denial. During the administrative process, the State provided substantial amounts of information about its verification process, sometimes providing the same information several times.
In June of this year, Secretary Kemp announced that the State of Georgia filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the DOJ to obtain preclearance of the voter verification process. After the lawsuit was filed, the DOJ determined that the verification process did not have a discriminatory effect or purpose and expeditiously consented to the federal approval of the verification procedure. Georgia was previously the only state in the country barred from complying with the federal Help America Vote Act’s voter verification requirement.
Secretary Kemp added, “I am glad the DOJ ultimately recognized the importance of ensuring a secure elections process in Georgia and consented to the Section 5 approval of Georgia ’s voter verification process. As Georgia ’s Chief Elections Officer, my job is to ensure secure, fair, and accessible elections for every Georgia citizen who is eligible to vote. Every ballot cast by a non-citizen erases a ballot cast by an eligible Georgia voter.”
Under the Help America Vote Act, states are required to verify the information provided by first time voter registration applicants with information currently on file in state or federal databases. In Georgia, the applicant’s first name, last name, date of birth, driver’s license or identification number, last four digits of his or her Social Security number, and United States citizenship status are verified with the Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration databases to ensure that the information matches.