Advocates are celebrating the addition of more than 1,410 Chatham County residents to Georgia’s voter rolls after they took advantage of an extended voter registration deadline last month due to Hurricane Matthew.
A federal judge had ordered the county to reopen registration after voting rights advocates argued that the storm —including a mandatory evacuation and related power outages —had prevented would-be voters from signing up. Local government offices were closed in Chatham for what would have been the last six days of the voter registration period that ended Oct. 11.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has embraced technology including a pilot program this year allowing voter registration via text message, had encouraged residents in the storm’s path to take advantage of the state’s online and mobile voter registration access points. U.S. District Judge William Moore, however, still extended the period for county residents until Oct. 18.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, noted that the number of those submitting applications during the extension would have represented more than 10 percent of all voters who registered in 2012 before that year’s presidential election. Advocates were also encouraged nearly half of the group were black or Latino —groups traditionally underrepresented on the rolls.
The Lawyers’ Committee brought the suit along with Atlanta law firm Bryan Cave on behalf of the Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the New Georgia Project.
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