People lined up for early voting on Thursday Oct. 18, 2018 at the Cobb County West Park Government Center at 736 Whitlock Ave NW in Marietta JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Federal judge asked to ensure new US citizens can vote in Georgia

Civil rights groups are asking a federal judge to allow new Americans to vote in Georgia’s election if they show proof of citizenship.

The groups filed an emergency motion Friday asking the courts to intervene so that citizens inaccurately labeled as non-citizens can still vote in this year’s race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.

The voter registrations of more than 3,600 people have been put on hold in Georgia because their citizenship hasn’t been verified. These potential voters are among over 53,000 people whose registrations are pending because of the state’s “exact match” law requiring registration applications to match government records.

The “exact match” process relies on driver’s license records that aren’t always updated when a non-citizen becomes a citizen, according to the plaintiffs. Their court motion asks precinct workers to accept proof of citizenship at the polls, in addition to photo ID, which is already required to vote in Georgia.

“The voters impacted by this process are often newly naturalized citizens voting for the first time,” said Danielle Lang, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center. “We should be welcoming them to our political community, not interrogating them.”

The emergency motion is part of a lawsuit filed last week that challenges Georgia’s “exact match” law. A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for Oct. 29.

Anyone who verifies their eligibility to vote, either when they go to vote or beforehand, will be be able to cast a regular ballot on Georgia’s touchscreen voting machines. 

Kemp’s campaign said Abrams’ allies are trying to use the courts to appeal to unauthorized immigrants.

“Her network is filing lawsuits and staging publicity stunts to force those flagged as ‘non citizens’ on the voter rolls,” said Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney. 

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