A state court judge on Tuesday refused to order the Georgia Secretary of State to add some 40,000 voters to the voter rolls, potentially disenfranchising thousands of African Americans and other people of color in the state.
Judge Christopher Brasher of the Fulton County Superior Court denied a petition from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR), the New Georgia Project and the Georgia branch of the NAACP asking the court to force Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) to process an estimated 40,000 “missing” voter registrations.
More than 100,000 voters were registered by the three groups, but about a third of those registered never made the rolls. The civil rights groups had focused on registering young people and people of color to vote. Some saw the Secretary of State’s failure to ensure that the “missing” voter registrations were processed, and the court’s support of that failure, as a ploy to suppress the vote of those groups.
“All in all – a Republican appointed judge has backed the Republican Secretary of State to deny the right to vote to a largely African American and Latino population,” said Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP.
The Secretary of State had previously launched an investigation into the new voter registrations, citing “numerous complaints about voter applications submitted by the New Georgia Project.” A completed investigation, however, recovered only 50 fraudulent applications and another 49 regarded as “suspicious” – less than 1 percent of the voter registrations submitted by the groups.
In a 14-page ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Brasher said the suit amounted only to “suspicions and fears” on the part of the groups representing the newly registered voters. Brasher suggested that the petitioners’ complaint was premature – even though early voting has already begun in the state – because the Secretary of State’s office is still in the process of registering voters.
The day before the decision, Georgia Moral Monday led a #LetUsVote rally outside of the state capitol building. According to the New Georgia Project, about 10 people were threatened with arrest for occupying Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office.
One demonstrator, Atlanta resident Atuarra McCaslin, told Think Progress, that the Secretary of State’s failure to process the voter registrations was “an unjust thing.” He continued, “Those 40,000 now can’t participate in the voting process, even though it’s their right as citizens. The Secretary of State doesn’t really care about those 40,000 people, who are primarily people of color and youth. Those kids have been waking up politically, and now their voices are going unheard. It’s just not right.”
Voters who do not appear on the rolls can still vote using a provisional ballot. Early voting runs until October 31. Election Day in Tuesday, November 4.
Media Resources: Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia 10/28/14;Think Progress 10/28/14; The Hill 10/28/14; Moral Monday GA Facebook 10/27/14; Washington Post 10/15/14; WSB-TV 9/9/14; Twitter; Georgia Secretary of State