ATLANTA, GEORGIA—On Tuesday, Judge Christopher Brasher of the Fulton County Superior Court denied a petition from civil rights advocates to force Georgia’s Secretary of State to process an estimated 40,000 voter registrations that have gone missing from the public database.
Though early voting is well underway in the state, Judge Brasher called the lawsuit “premature,” and said it was based on “merely set out suspicions and fears that the [state officials] will fail to carry out their mandatory duties.”
Angela Aldridge, an organizer with the group 9 to 5 Atlanta Working Women who has been working to register voters for several months, told ThinkProgress she was “furious” when she learned of the outcome: “That impedes people’s rights,” she said. “People need information before they go out to vote and they don’t even know if they’re registered or not. They were discouraged, upset, kind of frazzled, not really knowing what was going on. What can you even say to people who want to vote but possibly can’t? They might get disengaged and say, ‘Why vote? It doesn’t matter.’ It’s really disheartening.”
The New Georgia Project, who spearheaded the voter registration drive and brought the lawsuit against the state, vowed Tuesday to “continue to pursue all legal avenues available.” But with the election mere days away, there may be little remedy for the tens of thousands of people who submitted all necessary documents, but have still not received a registration card. Four of those impacted voters were present at the court hearing, but were denied the opportunity to testify.
Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, who represented the 40 thousand voters in the court, called the ruling “outrageous.”
“All in all – a republican appointed judge has backed the republican Secretary of State to deny the right to vote to a largely African American and Latino population,” Johnson wrote in a press release.
On Monday, dozens of Georgians occupied the Secretary of State’s office to demand he meet with them and explain what happened to the tens of thousands of missing registrations. At that protest, in which eight activists were arrested, former American Government teacher and civil rights lawyer Marsha Burrofsky told ThinkProgress she suspects foul play.
“When we started registering people this spring, people were saying, ‘You know, I registered six months ago, but I haven’t gotten anything yet!’ We thought that was strange,” she said. So we sat down with our list of registrations and checked, and about 20 to 20 percent were not showing up. We truly don’t know where things stand with them.”
Burrofsky said the people she registered in Dunwoody, Georgia, a more affluent and conservative community, did show up in the system, while those in more diverse and low-income communities in DeKalb County mysteriously disappeared.
“It just hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a tactic that the Secretary of State could use. I was very naive, I guess. I feel absolutely sick that this election is being stolen,” she said.
With the races for the state’s governor’s mansion and Senate seat too close to call, the missing voters could not only sway the political control of the state, but the political control of Congress’ upper chamber. Aldridge, who has spent several months registering voters in Fulton and Cobb County, told ThinkProgress that it is imperative to increase participation in marginalized communities so that elected officials better represent the constituents.
“I don’t believe that the government represents the whole state yet,” she said. “The politicians always say, ‘These are our values.’ But it has nothing to do with my personal values! That’s why we have to get out to vote, to make sure our state represents our values.”
Longtime Atlanta resident Atuarra McCaslin with Moral Monday Georgia, who organized Monday’s action, summed up his feelings on the situation. “It’s an unjust thing going on, he said. “Those 40,000 now can’t participate in the voting process, even though it’s their right as citizens. The Secretary of State doesn’t really care about those 40,000 people, who are primarily people of color and youth. Those kids have been waking up politically, and now their voices are going unheard. It’s just not right.”