Flawed Voter Purge Underway In Georgia

Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp (R)

Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp (R)

One of the most troubling aspects of Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) likely illegal attempt to purge people his administration said were non-citizen voters from the voter rolls was the error-riddled list of alleged non-citizens on which it relied. Though the Scott administration told election supervisors that it had a list of “sure-fire” non-citizens, hundreds proved to be naturalized — or even natural-born U.S. citizens. A new voter purge effort in Georgia is running into the same problem: bad data.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that after a state-level investigation, Fulton County, Georgia identified at least 2,400 voters it believed to be registered to vote at vacant lots. Like with the Florida purge, county elections officials began sending letters to those voters to determine whether they lived at those address. Unfortunately, as with Florida, they ran into a major problem:

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, has cried foul, citing the county’s embarrassment when it sent letters to residents of a senior high-rise earlier this month telling them that their building doesn’t exist and that, to prove otherwise, they needed to show up for a hearing. Elections Director Sam Westmoreland apologized, but Fort said the error proves his process is flawed.

Like with Florida, this purge apparently comes within 90 days of a federal election — likely putting it in conflict with provisions of the National Voter Registration Act. Like with parts of Florida, Georgia is covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, meaning this move could require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice. Like with Florida, the elections department said it was acting on a request from the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp (R). And, like with Florida, this purge could disproportionately affect minority voters — given the racial diversity of Fulton County.

Westmoreland conceded that about half of the people on the list have already responded and shown that they indeed live at the addresses they claim. Fort notes that many of the remaining 1,200 people could also still be legitimate voters.


Fulton County Director of Registration and Elections Sam Westmoreland told ThinkProgress that board has not purged any voters and will not do so unless completely convinced that they are actually ineligible. If anyone is determined to be improperly registered, Westmoreland promised, they will not be removed within 90 days of any federal election. If any of the July primaries go to an August runoff, he noted, that would likely mean any removals would take place after the November elections.

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