Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Georgia proposal would make it harder for state to cancel voter registration

The Georgia House’s top Democrat introduced legislation to repeal a state law that has allowed elections officials to remove thousands of voters who haven’t recently cast ballots and had any contact with local or state officials from Georgia's voter rolls.

Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell’s proposal Wednesday would strike the “no-contact” provision in state law that has sparked controversy. State officials call it a “critical safeguard for the integrity of the ballot box,” while critics contend it’s been unfairly used to bump voters off the rolls.

Georgia has used the process to cancel the registration of more than a half-million voters this year.

That means they had not voted, updated their voter registration information, filed a change of name or address, signed a petition or responded to attempts to confirm their last known address for at least the past three years.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office called the proposal "misguided."

"Instead of dropping a bill to strike this law from the books, I would strongly encourage him to do his research – to actually talk to elections officials across our state – about why this process is critically important to the integrity of our electoral process," said spokeswoman Candice Broce.

Here’s the backstory on the Georgia law from a previous AJC story:

Under state law, registered voters are mailed a confirmation notice following a more than three-year period of “no contact” with election officials. If voters do not respond to the notice within thirty days, they are designated as inactive — something that does not prevent them from voting and does not change their registration status.

If voters then remain inactive for two federal election cycles, meaning they have not voted or had contact with election officials for at least another four years, they are removed from voting rolls. This would include voters who have moved to another state or who have died.

A federal judge in March dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the state’s “trigger” for contacting voters violated federal voting laws. The Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause, which are appealing the ruling, claimed voters have a constitutional right not to vote. The groups said state officials should not demand confirmation of address if they have no reason to believe a voter had moved or died other than that they had not cast a ballot.

U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr., however, said the state had taken a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” approach in trying to reach voters who had not cast a recent ballot to confirm their addresses. Georgia’s law had been cleared for use by the Justice Department in 1997.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.