Shocking Study Released of Georgia State Republicans’ Years-Long Voter Disenfranchisement Scheme
The state of Georgia appears to have been quietly purging hundreds of thousands of valid registered voters from the state rolls for years, according to a study which began in 2013 and was conducted by the Los Angeles-based non-partisan Palast Investigative Fund.
“Given our findings of what appears to be large-scale disenfranchisement of legitimate voters, our foundation has chosen, in the public interest, to make our findings available to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia for review in preparation for making our findings public. We have also created a website where Georgians may look up their names to check if they have been wrongly disenfranchised,” Greg Palast, the firm’s principal investigator, wrote to the ACLU on Monday.
“The report outlined three ways the state of Georgia verifies a person’s address: a form of the National Change of Address registry of the US Postal Service, returned mail, or failure to vote in two federal election cycles combined with a failure to return a postcard that is used to confirm an address,” CNN explained.
Georgia ACLU Executive Director Andrea Young spoke to CNN following the report’s release.
“On the one hand, I was deeply saddened and on the other side, not entirely surprised,” Young told CNN, adding that Georgia’s voter roll management system is still “prone to tremendous error.”
Young added that “the real takeaway from this is the state of Georgia is using a methodology for maintaining its voter rolls that is both more expensive and less accurate than what industry would use to maintain a high-quality mailing list.”
The results, published on Monday, are astonishing. Of the more than 300,000 names that were purged from the rolls – nearly four percent of the total number of registered voters in the state – the study discovered that “198,351 Georgia voters who supposedly moved from their registration addresses who, in fact, have not moved at all, and therefore were wrongly purged, a 63.3% error rate.” This is a conservative estimate, however, because the report “left out of this list those voters whose addresses we were unable to confirm,” the The Palast Fund explains.
Moreover, “the state provided many unreadable or unverified files,” the The Palast Fund points out. “As a result, we can only confirm that 65,411, or about one in three citizens, moved from their county of registration. Looking at the data another way: two out of three – 2/3 or 66% — of the state’s list remained at the address where they are registered.”
The findings were based on “over 240 data sources, in addition to our Postal Service licensee who accessed the deep history files of the Postal Service, a process required by the Post Office for commercial enterprises such as Amazon and Ebay.”
“This is the Palast team’s second review of the Georgia voter registration cancellation lists,” the report notes. “In 2018, we obtained a list of over half a million Georgians removed from the voter rolls by order of the Secretary of State in 2017. Again, we hired address list hygiene experts to analyze the list. We found and named 340,134 voters who had not moved from their registration address but, whom the Secretary of State nevertheless had canceled their voter registration based on erroneous information these citizens had moved their residence.”
More recent efforts by Kemp and state Republicans to disenfranchise voters – especially in communities of color and working class economic status in large cities – were no doubt amelioriated by the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2018.
“Under the recent June 2018 Husted decision, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for using failure to vote as one piece of evidence that a voter has moved,” the report explains.
After Kemp was inaugurated in 2019, the new Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, “published a list of 313,243 citizens purged from the state’s voter rolls on grounds they had moved from their registration address,” the report states. Raffensberger claimed at the time that the names were removed because the voters were “inactive,” meaning they had not voted in recent elections.
“The ‘confirmation’ card [was] mailed to ‘inactive’ voters. However, this combination of non-voting and failure to return a postcard cannot be used if it is not ‘reasonable’ information,” Palast found in its investigation. “As the Georgia confirmation-by-postcard purge captures voters who did not move, Georgia’s method is, on its face, unreasonable.”
But because voting is not compulsory anywhere in the United States, citizens can abstain from voting without risking losing their rights. “The ‘Failure to Vote’ clause of the National Voter Registration Act explicitly prohibits using non-voting as a reason to cancel a citizen’s voter registration,” the report notes.
Put more simply, stripping people of their right to vote because they chose not to is unconstitutional.
These purges garnered national attention amid the ratf*ckery in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race between then-Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and former Democratic State Representative Stacey Abrams. As secretary of state, Kemp had unilateral power over how elections in the state were conducted.
Abrams did not challenge the results of the election and has become a leading voice in the national voting rights movement.
Georgia has since become a hotly contested swing state in the 2020 presidential election. In 2016, Republican Donald Trump carried Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes by less than six points over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Recent polling shows Trump in a virtual dead-heat with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, with some surveys giving Biden an edge. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia was Bill Clinton in 1992.
*Correction: The study was conducted by The Palast Fund, not the Georgia ACLU. The article has been updated, and we apologize for any confusion this may have caused.*