ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Civil rights coalition targets voter verification
Péralte C. Paul
A group of civil rights advocates, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, are seeking a permanent injunction blocking Georgia's citizenship voter verification requirements, arguing in a federal court Monday that it targets and discriminates against minorities.
Monday's hearing before a three-judge federal panel comes days after Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue named the state GOP's general counsel as a special attorney general to sue the Justice Department to obtain approval of the contentious measure.
The civil rights advocates, which also include the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed suit in October of 2008 on behalf of Jose Morales, a Cherokee County man and a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Morales received notification from election officials that said he was barred from voting because he was not a U.S. citizen, according to its citizenship database.
Morales later provided proof of his citizenship. His attorneys, who claim other Americans were also erroneously tagged as non-citizens, charge the state should have been required to get clearance from the Justice Department when it changed its verification policy.
Citing Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, Morales' attorneys argued the regulation mandates those states with a history of racial discrimination in voting rights obtain federal approval prior to enacting changes that affect voting.
Georgia's voter verification system was set up by former Secretary of State Karen Handel, also a Republican, before the November 2008 elections. The Justice Department ruled the plan should have first been submitted for its review. When the state submitted it, the Justice Department rejected it, saying it could prevent legal residents from voting.
Georgia's Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, represented the state when it challenged the Justice Department's ruling. He also sought pre-clearance for the new verification policy a second time.
But the Justice Department denied its approval again. When Perdue subsequently asked Baker to file suit in federal court in Washington to obtain clearance, Baker refused.
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