Georgia settles voter registration suit

ATLANTA -- Georgia officials announced Thursday that they have settled a lawsuit charging that welfare applicants weren’t given access to voter-registration materials as required by federal law.

But Secretary of State Brian Kemp isn’t happy about it. His office issued a statement headlined “Secretary of State Kemp condemns U.S. Department of Justice-Acorn coordination behind ludicrous voter-registration lawsuit.”

The ACORN-affiliated Project Vote filed the suit along with the Georgia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and others. It accused the state of failing to supply voter-registration forms every time a person applies for welfare or re-certifies eligibility or changes an address, either in person, by telephone or over the Internet.

In the settlement, Kemp agreed to ensure the Department of Human Services offers the forms and will issue reports of how many go out to the coalition that sued.

“At long last, the state of Georgia will be required to help citizens overcome barriers to the ballot,” said Lisa Danetz, senior counsel at Demos, part of the coalition. “The statistics speak for themselves: poor Georgians are less likely than the wealthy to make their voices heard.”

Shortly after Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, Georgia reported getting 100,000 registration applications in a two-year period. In 2010, just 4,430 registered while the state was getting nearly 70,000 Food Stamp applications each month.

Kemp blasted the groups that sued, saying they didn’t notify him of their complaint first, as required by the NVRA. And he criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for taking the groups’ side as it did when they sued Missouri, Ohio, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Louisiana.

“The U.S. Department of Justice and left-wing interest groups are conducting a full frontal assault on the rights of states to manage their elections’ processes in a fair and secure manner, including registration, verification of citizenship and fraud protection,” he said. “Georgians can be assured that we will continue to fight any attempt by this reckless administration to interfere with our election rights.”

Kemp said some of the efforts required duplicate other registration activities costing “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” noting that 5.8 million Georgians are already registered to vote.

Some critics of NVRA have argued that sending the forms is unnecessary since anyone who can use a phone or the Internet to apply for welfare can just as easily contact the voter-registration offices the same way.

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