Brief #67—Civil Rights

Policy Summary
On October 11, 2018, a federal lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Georgia to prevent the “exact match” protocol used by the Elections Division of the Georgia Secretary of State Office, which organizes and oversees all election activity in the state. The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of civil rights organizations including the NAACP and a number of Asian – American and Latino groups. The lawsuit was prompted by a report from the Associated Press that approximately 53,000 voting registrations in the state were “pending” because of the “exact match” policy. That policy can deny an eligible voter’s voter registration application if any personal information in the application does not match exactly the voter’s personal information when cross – checked with information in motor vehicle and Social Security databases. An analysis by the Associated Press found that nearly 70% of those pending registrations were from Black voters while 80.15% of the registrations were from Black, Latino and Asian – American voters. The Georgia Secretary of State overseeing the Elections Division is Mr. Brian Kemp who is a white man currently running for Governor of Georgia in the upcoming 2018 election. His opponent is Ms. Stacey Abrams, an African – American woman looking to become the first African – American female governor in United States history. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: The “exact match” protocol is a controversial voter verification technique but with the upcoming 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia the flaws of the policy has been magnified even more because of the racial background of the election. The potential to bar nearly 53,000 eligible voters from casting a vote in the upcoming elections is disturbing enough on its face. But when the Associated Press’s analysis of the 53,000 “pending” voter registrations revealed that 80.15% of the applications were from people of color, the discussion took on a racial element and raised questions of voter suppression of minority voters especially considering that minority voters traditionally vote Democratic. (Stacey Abrams is a Democrat while Brian Kemp is a Republican).

The problem with the “exact match” protocol is that any small or minor error can prevent the voter from successfully registering to vote. A missing hyphen, a couple of transposed numbers in an address or phone number or a data entry error by a voting official can bar a registration application. This system is not reliable because of errors that can be made that are not under the control of the voter – data entry errors from the official, errors in a third – party database (DMV or Social Security offices) or name, phone number or address changes (marriage/maiden names, new cell phone, students with numerous addresses in college). It is a system that Georgia had implemented once before they were sued and agreed to make changes in a settlement agreement. However, Georgia went ahead and re-enacted a different version of the same law with the only major change being how many months a voter has to correct their application.

Due to the Georgia governor’s race being between a white male and an African – American female and the “pending” voter registrations affecting mostly people of color, it is hard to ignore the accusations that the Georgia GOP are trying to suppress minority votes and gain an unfair advantage. Those accusations seem to gain more traction with Republican candidate Brian Kemp in charge of the elections as Secretary of State while simultaneously running for governor, which raises a serious conflict of interest issue. There was also the bizarre incident where Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue grabbed a college student’s cell phone when asked a question about voter identification policies which goes on to contribute to the image of the GOP being hostile to efforts to encourage everyone to vote. With the re-enactment of the controversial “exact match” policy, conflict of interest issue with one of the candidates and the racial elements of the election, it is becoming more difficult to see if the GOP has any real interest in tearing down barriers that permits every eligible voter to cast his or her ballot without regard to race or partisan politics. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact

Photo by Arnaud Jaegers

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