Groups seek to intervene in Georgia voting case

A coalition of civil rights groups and three black leaders want to intervene in Georgia’s lawsuit that seeks court approval of a process that attempts to verify the citizenship of voters.

The groups filed their motion late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, where the case is being presided over by a three-judge panel. An initial hearing has been set for Friday.

Last month, the state sued the U.S. Justice Department, saying the verification process is required under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. In past years, the Justice Department has declined to approve the system under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act over concerns it was unfairly flagging minority voters as potentially not being U.S. citizens.

When Attorney General Thurbert Baker declined to file suit, Secretary of State Brian Kemp appointed three private attorneys from the Atlanta firm of Strickland Brockington Lewis to represent the state. The suit says if the federal court declines to approve Georgia's voter verification process, it should declare Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 5 requires that changes in voting procedures in states with a history of voter discrimination be "pre-cleared" by the Justice Department.

The civil rights groups, represented by the ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, seek a declaration finding Section 5 to be constitutional. The motion was filed by the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials and its president, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta); the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and its president, Edward DuBose; and the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and its executive director, Helen Butler.