This Major Roadblock For Georgia Voters Could Affect The Outcome Of This Election
With the presidential election just days away, voting rights activists are understandably concerned as to whether all willing and eligible voters have been registered. But thousands of Georgians will be unable to vote in November for reasons related to voter registration, Kathleen Burch, the ACLU of Georgia's interim counsel, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In fact, more than 100,000 voter registration applications in Georgia haven't been processed, The Washington Post reported. And according to Catalist, a Washington firm which analyzes voter data, thousands of newly registered voters in Georgia have not actually been added to the rolls, despite meeting registration deadlines.
Other potential voters were unable to register since the voter registration deadline wasn't extended in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. "This is unethical and illegal," Burch claimed.
The circumstances in Georgia are problematic, considering that voting is the mechanism by which Americans choose their governing representatives and make their views on policy known. 100,000 is no small number — the margin of victory in Florida between George W. Bush and Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election was only 537 votes. These citizens could be the difference between a Trump presidency and a Clinton presidency, and they might not even be allowed to vote.
You might think extending a voter registration deadline wouldn't be controversial, considering that the right to vote is constitutionally protected. But unregistered voters have gained no sympathy from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state's chief elections official.
"This is a nakedly political stunt to manipulate the system and squander state and county resources days before the election," Kemp said, according to The Journal-Constitution. "In a desperate, last-minute attempt at relevance, the ACLU is spoon-feeding the liberal media exactly what it wants and forcing their agenda on the American people." Kemp also took to Twitter to express his views on the ACLU's lawsuit.
What I don't understand about Kemp's statements is how the ACLU would be "manipulating" the system by helping more people exercise their right to vote in a major election. Voter registration shouldn't be like buying tickets to a concert with a limited number of available tickets — all eligible citizens should be able to sign up and cast their ballots.
Besides, some of the voters in question already registered to vote, but are still being denied access to the ballot. These voters may not have been added to the rolls partly due to some "questionable procedures," Nse Ufot, executive director of a progressive group called the New Georgia Project, told The Washington Post.
In September, the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda sued Kemp's office because almost 35,000 potential voters' applications were rejected, possibly based on clerical errors. The policy promoted by Kemp's office entailed requiring the information from voter registration applications to exactly match driver's licenses and Social Security records, but even a misplaced hyphen could result in the rejection of an application, The Washington Post reported. On Sept. 23, this requirement was put on hold, according to a letter from Georgia's Attorney General's office. And out of the almost 35,000 people denied the right to vote by this requirement, 64 percent were black and only 14 percent were white.
Minorities are more likely to vote for Clinton than Trump, the The Washington Post reported. In this sense, it would make sense for Democratic-leaning organizations to try to boost turnout among people of color, and for Republican-leaning organizations to try to reduce turnout with that same group. But no matter your political leaning, it stands that as Americans, our right to vote should be constitutionally protected.