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Pre-Suit NVRA Violation Notice Letter issued by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on Behalf of Georgia Voting Rights Organizations to Laurens County Election Officials

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, voting rights advocates sent a letter formally notifying Laurens County, Georgia election officials that its practice of challenging and removing registered voters from the voter registration rolls for allegedly moving from the address associated with their voter registration record violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The letter was issued by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, and the New Georgia Project.

Under federal law, jurisdictions are prohibited from removing registered voters from the voter registration list for alleged moves unless 1) the voter personally confirms he or she has moved and is no longer eligible to vote in the jurisdiction, or 2) the jurisdiction complies with the address confirmation and waiting period required under the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”). The NVRA also prohibits the systematic removal of voters from the registration rolls within 90 days of elections when a federal candidate is on the ballot and requires that any process to systematically remove registered voters from the registration rolls be administered in a uniform and non-discriminatory manner.

The protections imposed by the NVRA are intended to prevent voters from being improperly disenfranchised when they have not moved out of the jurisdiction or when they are temporarily absent from the jurisdiction for work, school, family or other obligations. The law is also intended to ensure that voter list maintenance programs are administered uniformly and in a non-discriminatory manner.

Based upon available information, it appears that Laurens County election officials maintained a long-standing practice of challenging and removing registered voters from the voter registration rolls in violation of the protections afforded by the NVRA and that the county’s voters of color were disproportionately impacted by this practice. The letter sent to Laurens County notifying it of its violation of the NVRA provides the County with ninety (90) to take corrective action or face the prospect of further legal action.

“The NVRA contains very important protections to ensure that eligible voters do not lose their fundamental right to vote as a result of improper challenges and purges of voters from the registration rolls,” said Julie Houk, Managing Counsel for Election Protection with the Lawyers’ Committee Voting Rights Project. “With the upcoming 2020 Presidential election cycle, it is imperative that Laurens County comply with the requirements of the NVRA and ensure that all of the county’s eligible voters who want to cast ballots are able to do so. The challenges and removals of voters in violation of the NVRA in Laurens County are particularly alarming because evidence suggest that they are disproportionately impacting the county’s voters of color,” said Houk.

“Georgia is a state that is one of the most aggressive when it comes to so-called voter list maintenance. Laurens County’s challenges and purges of registered voters in violation of the NVRA are particularly concerning because they not only have the effect of exacerbating the state’s  aggressive list maintenance practices, but they appear to be disproportionately impacting the county’s voters of color,” said Phyllis Blake, President of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP.

According to Helen Butler, Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, “economically disadvantaged voters of color, students and young people are more likely to be impacted by Georgia’s aggressive list maintenance purges because they tend to move more frequently. As a result, these voters are in the greatest need of the protections afforded by the NVRA’s list maintenance requirements and it is imperative that Lauren County election officials fully comply with federal law before removing registered voters from the voter registration rolls,” said Butler.

“New Georgia Project and other groups who help voters register to vote in Georgia are directly impacted when jurisdictions, like Laurens County, aggressively purge eligible voters from the registration rolls in violation of the NVRA,” said Nse Ufot, Executive Director of the New Georgia Project. “Not only do we have to deploy more resources to re-registering unlawfully purged voters, but we have to vigilantly monitor local jurisdictions to ensure that they are not violating federal law when they remove voters from the registration rolls.”

Read full letter here

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. For more information, please visit https://live-lawyers-committee-2020.pantheonsite.io

Contacts:

Reynolds Graves, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 202-662-8375, [email protected]