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Election Board’s full steam ahead on citizenship checks for new voters


Once again, Georgia is about to require that new voters prove their citizenship before casting a ballot.

david worleyThe State Election Board voted 3-1 today to approve a process for citizenship checks, which were mandated by the Georgia Legislature this year. Board member David Worley tried unsuccessfully to amend the new rules, or table them for further refinement, based on objections raised by immigrant and minority groups.

Hispanic and African-American activists complained about several provisions that they said were inconsistent with federal law or imposed an unfair burden on new voters.

The new requirements, one said, are comparable to the poll tax used to keep blacks from voting in the South decades ago. Critics said a citizen might be required to pay as little as $10, for a copy of his or her birth certificate, or as much as $210, for replacement of naturalization papers, before they could vote.

“The state of Georgia seems to be retreating from the hard-fought progress to ensure voting rights for all of its citizens,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, founded by Dr. Joseph Lowery. “We’ve had many civil rights activists who died for the right to vote, and we really think this is an imposition on that right to vote.”

After the meeting, Republican members of the election board said the rules are fine the way they are.

“It was clearly the sense of the board that the rules as they were written were acceptable,” said Secretary of State Karen Handel, the board’s chairman.

Vice Chairman Tex McIver said the board had already dealt with critics’ concerns. “In my view, we’ve done all that,” he said. “I was satisfied as the representative of the [state] Senate that those issues have been addressed.”

Perhaps the biggest complaint:  The state will continue to check voter registration applications against the state’s database of driver’s licenses and will flag those for which names or other information do not match.

The U.S. Justice Department last spring rejected Georgia’s earlier process for verifying voters’ citizenship, which also used the driver database, because more than half of the people that it flagged were actually U.S. citizens. A disproportionate number of the errors concerned minority voters, the Justice Department said.

The new rules identify a variety of documents with which prospective voters can prove citizenship.

But some of those listed items do not currently exist, such as “methods of proof that are established pursuant to the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.” No such methods have ever been established, said Nina Perales, southwest regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Similarly, she said, the rules say registrars may accept a driver’s license that states on its face “that the applicant has provided satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship.” Georgia licenses don’t do that.

State elections supervisor Wesley B. Tailor said the descriptions of those items were inserted in state law as “placeholders” in case such documents are eventually created.

Critics also complained that prospective voters could submit naturalization certificates issued by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, created in 2003, but not those issued by its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Officials said it was unnecessary to amend that language because the Election Board could simply instruct local registrars to accept INS certificates as well.

In fact, amending that language would have required that election officials readvertise the proposed rules and vote again after another 30 days had elapsed. They said there’s no time to do that because the state law requires that citizenship checks begin Jan. 1. (Anyone who is registered to vote by Dec. 31 will be deemed to have proven their citizenship.)

The rules could not be considered sooner, Tailor said, because of a vacancy on the five-member Election Board.. Officials wanted a full board to vote on the new rules, Tailor said.

They may also have wanted a board that had a three-vote majority in support of citizenship checks. Worley and a second member, Randy Evans, have repeatedly criticized the push for citizenship checks. Evans was not present for today’s vote.





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2 Responses to “Election Board’s full steam ahead on citizenship checks for new voters”

  1. Bill Bozarth says:

    Common Cause Georgia opposed SB 86 and other similar legislation introduced over the past two sessions. There is no evidence that there is a significant problem with non-citizens registering and voting, and this new requirement puts a burden on every citizen who moves to our state, or turns 18 in our state to produce a birth certificate, passport or other document in order to register. The likely result: fewer people voting. With only a quarter of this state’s eligible voters participating now, is that really what we want to do?

    Why put up additional hurdles to voting when there is not a serious problem to be solved? We suspect the bill and subsequent rules set up by the Election Board are more abut pandering to xenophobia than they are about protecting the integrity of the election process.

  2. Ross says:

    Why are white voters, Asian voters, Indian voters, Italian voters and others not having a problem with the voting identification rules? Why is everything, according to liberals, always targeting in a racist way, Blacks and Hispanics? Black voters should be no more burdened by the ruling than white voters. I just don’t get it. And with the huge, illegal Hispanic immigrant population in Georgia, there is not anything wrong, whatsoever, with requiring them to show proof of U.S. citizenship in order to cast their vote. Do you think I could just relocate to another country and simply start voting my choice of candidates into office? No. And it shouldn’t happen here. Liberals don’t actually expect the law to be changed in the next year or two. They know to start chipping away, complaining, calling supporters “racists” until they get their way. They think 10 years down the road. Same way with their gay marriage agenda. Started years ago and now it’s OK. Benefits to “domestic partners”? Sure! We’re there too. Conservatives need to be every bit as determined not to surrender our values and compromise our laws to cater to these whinners. Stay the course!