With a final hearing set Feb. 5 for both sides’ arguments, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has reached a settlement with the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp over what the ACLU termed a threat to purge from voter rolls nearly 160,000 voters who had moved within the same county in the last four years without notifying election officials.
The case involved a petition the ACLU filed on behalf of a voter, Stacy Hopkins, last July after she received a notice from the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections that, unless she contacted the county, she would be removed from the active voter rolls.
Hopkins had notified the U.S. Postal Service of her new address, but the elections board did not change her voter information to reflect that change.
The mandamus action named Fulton’s elections officials as defendants. It argued that state law required the county to update her information and to send her a notice of that change that would allow her to verify that information, if she so desired, but would not remove her name if she didn’t respond.
After the petition was filed, Hopkins’ counsel moved to add Kemp to the suit, arguing that his office had mandated that voters in Hopkins’ position must respond within 30 days or be placed on the “inactive” rolls.
The ACLU asserted that almost 160,000 voters statewide had received similar notices.
As the litigation progressed, Kemp agreed to keep such voters on the active rolls but declined to automatically update the address file with the postal service.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell had scheduled a Feb. 5 final hearing, but the Jan. 31 settlement resolved the case.
Among the terms of the settlement are stipulations that Kemp’s office will immediately instruct all county registrars to update the addresses of voters who have moved within the past two years and mail them new precinct cards.
The agreement said the total number of such voters statewide is about 35,859.
In a release announcing the settlement, Georgia ACLU—which has sparred repeatedly with Kemp over what it claims are voter-suppression efforts—hailed the agreement as “protecting the sacred, constitutional right to vote” for Georgians.
The organization’s legal director, Sean Young, told the Daily Report the settlement was overdue.
“It shouldn’t have had to come to this,” said Young. “We filed this lawsuit because Secretary of State Brian Kemp was violating the law. It shouldn’t have taken this long and until the eve of a final court date for the secretary of state to agree to comply with the law.”
In a statement forwarded by his press deputy, Kemp also claimed vindication.
“Georgia scored another victory for keeping the voter rolls up-to-date and preventing voter fraud,” said Kemp. “This agreement allows us to continue robust voter list maintenance in the future, and we will continue our work to keep the rolls accurate. Under my watch, it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in the Peach State. I intend to keep it this way.”
Kemp—who is also running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination—unleashed a fusillade of criticism of the ACLU and other groups that have challenged his practices in overseeing Georgia elections.
“These so-called ‘nonpartisan’ groups see no problem with dead people, illegal immigrants, felons under sentence, and non-Georgians on the rolls,” said Kemp. “It means nothing to them that one illegal vote cancels out the vote of a law-abiding American citizen.”