Groups press to end new voter checks

ATLANTA --- Voting rights groups are again trying to stop Georgia elections officials from screening new voters by asking them to prove their identities and citizenship, a week after a federal judge rejected their claims.

But this time the groups are emboldened by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overruled a federal appeals court that ordered Ohio's top elections official to do more to help counties verify voter eligibility.

Though the high court's ruling last week on the Ohio case involves a separate legal issue, attorneys for Secretary of State Karen Handel brought it up in arguments this month to support their claims that the checks help prevent voter fraud.

The Georgia groups will ask a three-judge panel today to prevent state officials from matching new voting applications with driver's license and Social Security data. They say the checks amount to a "systematic purging" of rolls just weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

"At this juncture, at such a hotly contested election, every eligible voter should be permitted to vote, and every vote should be counted," said Elise Shore, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is one of several voting and immigration groups that filed the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Jack Camp denied the request last week on grounds that halting the screenings could lead to "significant voter confusion" before the election.

Georgia is also among several states with a history of discriminatory voting practices that must get federal approval before changing election policy under the federal law.