107,000 ‘Infrequent Voters’ Purged from Georgia’s Voter Rolls

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By KAYLA GOGGIN  |  Court House News Service

ATLANTA (CN) — A new analysis of voter data reveals that Georgia officials removed an estimated 107,000 people from voter rolls because they did not vote in prior elections.

An investigation by American Public Media found that the state removed the voters during its massive 2017 purge under the “use it or lose it” law, which eliminates voters from registration lists if they fail to vote, don’t make contact with election officials, or neglect to respond to a notice after a three-year period has elapsed.

Anyone who doesn’t vote in two subsequent elections or make contact with election officials risks being purged from the voter rolls. Voters who cast ballots in the 2008 election but didn’t turn out between 2010 and 2016 were removed in 2017.

Many dropped voters may not know they are no longer eligible to vote.

In March 2017, Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced his intention to run for governor.

The July 2017 purge resulted in the removal of over half a million voters in a single day – including those cut for ‘inactivity’ – reducing Georgia’s registered voters by 8 percent, according to APM’s analysis.

The report adds further weight to mounting accusations of voter suppression against Kemp’s office.

A poll released Wednesday showed Kemp and his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams in an extraordinarily tight race. With Kemp leading Abrams by just one point, the election could be decided by a small margin of votes.

The APM analysis points out that only 77,744 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania decided the the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

If Abrams wins the race, she will become the first black woman to serve as a United States governor.

Abrams, who has focused on turning out minority voters throughout her campaign, has accused Kemp of actively working to suppress minority voters in Georgia. According to the APM investigation, in six out of 10 Georgia counties black voters were canceled in the 2017 purge at a higher rate than white voters for inactivity.

Kemp says that his office is merely following Georgia law and working to keep voter registration lists accurate to prevent voter fraud.

“We’re following the process,” Kemp said in a recent interview with Atlanta public radio station WABE. “I’m very proud of my record on making sure we have secure, accessible and fair elections.”

It’s not unusual for voters to be removed from registration lists when they move to a different state, die or go to prison, but Georgia’s “use it or lose it” policy removes voters who haven’t moved or committed a crime, and who are otherwise in good standing simply because they infrequently turn up at the polls.

State elections officials assume that people who don’t vote in two or more election cycles or return confirmation notices have moved to a different state. Proponents of “use it or lose it” laws claim a risk of voters casting ballots in two separate states if they are not quickly removed from registration lists after they move.

According to conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, Georgia has pursued just 19 election fraud cases in the last two decades. Seven of those cases resulted in a criminal conviction.

But the state has a recent history of exceptionally large purges. According to APM’s analysis, nearly 379,000 people were removed from voter registration lists during the 2010 election cycle under Kemp. By 2014, 517,000 voters had been cancelled.

Data provided by Georgia to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission shows that over the past decade, the state removed more than 1.6 million people from the rolls.

And accusations of voter suppression against Kemp grow as the November 6 election nears. On October 11, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit in Atlanta federal court attempting to prevent Kemp’s office from holding back 53,000 voter registration applications.

The applications are on hold under Georgia’s “exact match” law, which requires information on voter registration forms to exactly match government records. An extra space in a name, a typo, or a misplaced hyphen can result in a rejected application.

According to the Associated Press, 70 percent of the applications on hold belong to African-American voters.

Alaska, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia also have “use it or lose it” voter registration laws on the books, the APM report found.

Note: Tennessee state law is attached to voter registration as an attempt to protect elected representatives from inacting referendums to correct local governments moves.

2-5-151. Petitions for recall, referendum or initiative.

(a)  Any governmental entity having a charter provision for a petition for recall, referendum or initiative or any person acting pursuant to such charter provision shall meet the requirements of this section.

(b)  Before a petition may be circulated, at least one (1) registered voter of the city or county shall file with the county election commission:

(1)  The proper form of the petition; and

(2)  The text of the question posed in the petition.

(c)  The county election commission shall certify whether the petition is in proper form within thirty (30) days after the filing of the documentation required by subsection (b). The individual or individuals filing the petition shall have fifteen (15) days to cure any defects in the documentation required by subsection (b) by filing revised documentation in proper form with the county election commission. The county election commission shall determine within five (5) days whether or not the revised documentation shall be certified for final approval.

(d)  Petitions shall be signed by at least fifteen percent (15%) of those registered to vote in the municipality or county. The disqualification of one (1) or more signatures shall not render a petition invalid, but shall disqualify such signatures from being counted towards the statutory minimum number of signatures required in this section.

(e)  Upon filing, each completed petition shall contain the following:

(1)  The full text of the question attached to each petition;

(2)  The genuine signature and address of registered voters only, pursuant to the requirements of § 2-1-107;

(3)  The printed name of each signatory; and

(4)  The date of signature.

(f)  (1)  Completed petitions shall be filed with the county election commission within seventy-five (75) days after final certification by the county election commission as required by subsection (c).

(2)  In addition, a petition for recall, referendum or initiative shall be filed at least sixty (60) days before a general municipal or county election may be held on the question contained in such petition. The question contained in a petition filed less than sixty (60) days before an upcoming general municipal or county election will be placed on the ballot of the following general municipal or county election.

(g)  Any person may request either in person or in writing that the county election commission remove such person’s name from a petition. Such request must be made within eight (8) days of filing of the completed petition and before final certification by the county election commission of the petition.

(h)  The county election commission shall certify whether or not the completed petition meets all applicable requirements within thirty (30) days of filing of the completed petition.

(i)  Upon certification by the county election commission pursuant to subsection (h), the election commission shall publish the question contained in the petition pursuant to § 2-12-111.

(j)  This section shall control notwithstanding any statutory provision or charter provision of a municipality or county to the contrary; provided, that any contrary charter provision of a municipality or county which is enacted after July 1, 1997, shall control with respect only to the requirements set forth in subsection (d) relating to the statutory minimum number of signatures required in a petition, and to the provisions of subdivision (f)(1) relating to the seventy-five-day deadline for filing of a petition after final certification by the county election commission.

(k)  This section shall control any petition with signatures filed with the county election commission on or after June 25, 1997.

(l)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the provisions of this section shall not apply to any county having a metropolitan form of government and a population greater than one hundred thousand (100,000), according to the 2000 federal census or any subsequent federal census.

[Acts 1997, ch. 558, § 33; 2005, ch. 428, § 1.]
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