Obama Administration stops voter registration checks for citizenship in Georgia

First the Democrats were upset about voter ID. Now they are upset that they have to be citizens.

The Justice Department has rejected Georgia's system of using Social Security numbers and driver's license data to check whether prospective voters are citizens, a process that was a subject of a federal lawsuit in the weeks leading up to November's election.

In a letter released on Monday, the Justice Department said the state's voter verification program is frequently inaccurate and has a "discriminatory effect" on minority voters. The decision means Georgia must halt the citizenship checks, although the state can still ask the Justice Department to reconsider, according to the letter and to the Georgia secretary of state's office.

"This flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote," Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said. King's letter was sent to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker on Friday.

The decision comes as Georgia awaits word on whether a law passed in the spring that requires newly registering voters to show proof of citizenship will pass muster with DOJ. Under the law that takes effect in January, people must show their proof up front compared to doing checks through databases.

A three-judge federal panel in October ordered the state to seek Justice Department preclearance for the checks under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the same reason the federal agency must sign off on the new law that made Georgia only the second state after Arizona to require such proof. Georgia is one of several states that need federal approval before changing election rules because of a history of discriminatory Jim Crow-era voting practices.

Secretary of State Karen Handel blasted DOJ's decision, saying it opens the floodgates for non-citizens to vote in the state.

"Clearly, politics took priority over common sense and good public policy," said Handel, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

Justice Department officials said the citizenship match through driver's license and Social Security data has flagged 7,007 individuals as non-citizens but that many have been shown to be in error.

"Thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged," the Justice Department letter said.

The Justice Department decision marks the first time the new Democratic Obama administration has weighed in on Georgia's election laws. It is also the first time the Justice Department has rejected a change in election procedures by Georgia since the 1990s, according to a spokesman for the Georgia attorney general. . . . .

Macon.com has more useful info here.

Another report flagged 7,007 people as potential non-citizens. Those individuals would have to take, under the state’s procedures, inconvenient steps to be considered registered voters.”
The DOJ found that the verification process hit Hispanics, Asians and African Americans hardest. Of those flagged as non-citizens more than half were valid Americans, 14.9 percent of those had verified their citizenship with a birth certificate. “Another 45.7 percent provided proof they were naturalized citizens.” That led the DOJ to determine that data used to check citizenship was inaccurate.
The DOJ also calculated that although blacks and whites made up equal numbers of the newly registered, blacks were flagged 60 percent more than whites. “Hispanic and Asian individuals are more than twice as likely to appear on the (flagged) list as are white applicants,” the DOJ said. . . . .

Federal ID rules:

After 9/11, the federal government has added extra security measures when obtaining a state identification card, driver license, and social security card among other legal documents. A new federal law (called the Real ID Act) was introduced that made it a requirement to show proof of legal immigration status in the United States to obtain a drivers license from any state. As of May 2008, driver licenses issued by the states that do not meet these requirements will not be accepted as legal identification to gain entry into a federal building or to board an airplane in the United States.



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