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Handel preparing new rules for voters to prove citizenship


karen handelThe State Election Board may put the final touches next week on Georgia’s drive to require proof of citizenship when residents register to vote.

The Justice Department last spring rejected Secretary of State Karen Handel‘s effort to purge non-citizens from the voting rolls by checking them against databases of licensed drivers and Social Security numbers. In a May 29 letter, the federal agency said the process had incorrectly flagged up to 7,000 voters as suspect, including a disproportionate number of racial minorities.

The state’s latest approach, passed by the Georgia Legislature this year, would mandate that prospective voters bring evidence of U.S. citizenship when they register. Acceptable documents would include:

  • a birth certificate,
  • a passport,
  • naturalization papers, or
  • a driver’s license or ID card issued by the state Department of Driver Services.

Handel oversees balloting in Georgia and chairs the election board, which will vote Dec. 10 on rules to implement the Legislature’s wishes and provide an appeals process. If approved, the whole package would be sent off to the U.S. Justice Department for pre-clearance, as required for election law changes in the South under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Georgia would join Arizona as the only states that require voters to prove their citizenship. Under the Georgia law, anyone registered by the end of 2009 would remain eligible to vote and would not have to prove citizenship.

The election board will consider rules allowing additional documentation as proof of citizenship, including:

  • a certificate of citizenship issued by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • a U.S. Citizen identification card (a document no longer issued by INS but still honored)
  • reports issued by the State Department or U.S. consulates of an American citizen’s birth abroad
  • an adoption decree showing an applicant’s name and U.S. birthplace
  • evidence of federal Civil Service employment prior to June 1976
  • official military records, or hospital records created at the time of birth, showing a U.S. place of birth

The proposed rules would allow a hearing for a prospective voter who cannot produce any of that paperwork. Registrars at the hearing could decide to accept other documents, created at least five years before a voter’s application, including insurance or medical records, census records or admission papers from a nursing home or similar facility.

The board will hear public comment on the rules at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 before voting. The board meets  in the East Tower of the Sloppy Floyd Building, located at 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive S.E., in Room 1252.





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