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DOJ rejects Georgia voter verification requirements

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has rejected Georgia's system of voter citizenship verification by way of a Social Security and driver's license database. In a letter [text, PDF] released Monday, Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King told Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker [official profile] that the proposed changes are discriminatory. Referring to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [text; DOJ backgrounder], King wrote:

We have carefully considered the information you have provided, as well as information from other interested parties. Under Section 5, the Attorney General must determine whether the submitting authority has met its burden of showing that the proposed change "neither has the purpose nor will have the effect" of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group. As discussed further below, I cannot conclude that the state has sustained its burden in this instance. Therefore, based on the information available to us, I must object to the voter verification program, on behalf of the Attorney General.

Georgia sought the DOJ's decision after a federal court enjoined [order, PDF] the voting practices in October in the ongoing Morales v. Handel [OSU backgrounder] election litigation.

In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] a separate Georgia law that requires voters to present government-issued photo identification at the polls in order to vote. The suit [complaint, PDF] was filed by two elderly voters in Georgia, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) [advocacy website], and other civil rights groups that argued that the legislation makes it difficult for minorities, the elderly, and the impoverished to participate in elections. Georgia's controversial voter ID law [text; JURIST news archive] has been enforced [JURIST report] since the Georgia's September 18 Special Elections in September 2008.

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