Brief #69—Civil Rights

Policy Summary: On October 30, 2018, Judge Leigh Martin May of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s request to stay an injunction that the judge issued the week prior. Judge May’s injunction prevented Georgia election officials from throwing out absentee ballots. Georgia election officials had been tossing out absentee ballots if the voter’s signature on the ballot did not match exactly the signature of the voter on their initial voter registration document kept by the state. Judge Martin’s ruling will allow the absentee ballots to be counted for this current 2018 election cycle.

On November 2, 2018, in a separate case, Judge Eleanor L. Ross issued a much broader ruling on Georgia’s “exact match” voting policy by ruling that 3,141 voter registrations that had been marked “pending” by the state be allowed to vote in the upcoming elections on November 6, 2018. Some voters, including a high proportion of minority voters, who registered to vote in Georgia had their registrations listed as “pending” if personal information in their registration did not match exactly personal information found in Georgia Department of Driver Services or Social Security databases. Judge Ross’ ruling permits those “pending” voters to vote in the 2018 election cycle. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis: These two court rulings are important rulings that highlight the danger of voter suppression tactics. In the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are in a very tight race with the projected winner still too close to call. Election officials have called their exact match policy an effort to clean up the voter rolls and bring integrity to the process of registering voters. But with as many as 53,000 registrations marked pending and nearly 70% of those from minority voters it was possible that preventing those votes from being counted could easily have had an effect on the 2018 gubernatorial race. The exact match policy currently in force in Georgia also gives those voters who have had their voter registrations marked pending 26 months to correct inconsistencies in their registrations. But that option still did not allow those voters to cast their ballot this Tuesday. Georgia’s preferred course in not counting the ballots and then telling the voter to fix the problem after Election Day has passed would have had the same effect – that eligible voters would not have had their ballot counted in this election cycle. In her ruling Judge Ross stated that voters with pending voter registration applications would suffer “irreparable harm if they lose the right to vote.” And Judge May wrote in her ruling that “the public interest is best served by allowing qualified absentee voters to vote and have their votes counted.” With less than a week to Election Day in 2018, these two rulings will help to ensure in Georgia that all eligible voters who cast a ballot will have it counted and not have it thrown out for minor clerical or political partisan reasons. 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 Parker Johnson

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