Georgia sued over citizenship verification
NEWNAN, Ga. - Voting rights groups asked a federal judge Friday to stop Georgia’s attempts to verify the identities and citizenship of new voter applicants, arguing they amounted to a “systematic purging” of rolls just weeks before the election.
The groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday saying that the immigration checks, which involve matching the applications with driver’s license and Social Security data, must first be approved by the Department of Justice.
Georgia is not alone in being questioned about the way it has been verifying voter records and “purging” voters from the rolls before Election Day. Methods are being scrutinized across the country, including in several swing states that could determine who becomes president in a close election.
But Georgia is among several states with a history of discrim- inatory voting practices that must clear an additional hurdle. It must get federal approval before changing election policy under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Georgia election officials say they have no problem submitting election policy to Washington.
But Republican Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel said the checks were an effort by her office to follow federal guidelines to ensure the integrity of the vote and that those eligible are casting ballots.
“We’re simply trying to follow the law,” she said after the hearing.
The federal lawsuit came a day after the Department of Justice said the state’s action to verify citizenship using Social Security numbers violated the 1965 voting law because the policy did not receive federal clearance first.
The Justice Department says Georgia officials made some 2 million requests to check the Social Security numbers of newly registered voters — far more than any other state, indicating a change in election policy. State officials question so high a number, since just 406,000 registered in Georgia