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GOP election officials go toe-to-toe on citizen checks
Republicans on the State Election Board waded into a virtual GOP smackdown this week as they argued over Georgia’s controversial citizenship checks for potential voters.
At issue: Justice Department findings, reported this week, that African-Americans were 60 percent more likely than whites to be flagged by the state’s citizen-verification process, which it described as “error-laden.”
“If that is true, it is an indefensible program,” thundered board member Randy Evans (right), who is also general counsel of the Georgia GOP, at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The Justice Department also found that Asians and Hispanics were more than twice as likely as whites to be flagged. The agency, which must review election-law changes in Georgia under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, said the burden on minority voters was “real … substantial … and retrogressive.”
So far, the process has flagged 7,007 voters who were potential non-citizens. But 60 percent of those questioned voters proved their citizenship (including about 1,000 who produced birth certificates showing they were born here), the Justice Department said. The letter does not address the other 40 percent.
Evans, who has characterized the screening as a waste of time, grilled Secretary of State Handel’s staff on their preparation of Georgia’s request for Justice Department approval.
“We don’t have any statistical data to rebut that statement. Is that true?” he asked. No, Deputy Secretary of State Rob Simms replied.
Evans said he would move to scuttle the citizenship screening if the Justice Department’s analysis proved to be accurate, and he pushed Handel to say she would do the same. She made no commitment.
Handel (left), who chairs the Election Board, tried several times without success to cut Evans off, declaring she would not let him “browbeat and intimidate my staff.”
Finally, she ended the meeting. A few minutes later, while leaving the room, she vented to associates about Evans’ “grandstanding.”
Handel insists that Georgia’s screening process follows the letter of the law, in this case the Help America Vote Act passed by Congress in 2002.
The Justice Department’s letter appears to dispute that point.
Here’s the full letter.