Georgia agrees to add thousands to voter rolls ahead of Nov. election

Georgia has agreed to temporarily suspend a requirement that has prevented tens of thousands of Georgia residents from registering to vote, as it works toward a possible settlement in a federal lawsuit that accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of disenfranchising minorities ahead of the presidential election.

The agreement, finalized late Monday, may allow thousands of voters whose applications have been rejected since as far back Oct. 1, 2014, to vote on Nov. 8 as long as they show proper identification. The state has also agreed to stop the automatic rejection of applications that don’t exactly match information in state and federal databases.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge William O’Kelley, the state attorney general’s office said Kemp was taking these actions to avoid any emergency measures that advocacy groups had requested. O’Kelley canceled a preliminary injunction hearing early Monday as a result of that effort.

The groups filed the suit two weeks ago, alleging that black, Latino and Asian-American applicants were far more likely than whites to be rejected due to mismatches with state and federal databases, disproportionately affecting minority voters across the state and violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Republican Kemp’s office at the time had called it an unwarranted attack by liberal groups. His office did not immediately respond Monday evening to a request for comment.

In all, the state denied 34,874 registration applications from 2013 to 2016 due to mismatched information. Of those, black applicants were eight times more likely to fail the state’s verification process than white applicants, and Latinos and Asian-Americans were six times more likely to fail, according to the suit.

The accusations in the lawsuit have been strongly denied by Kemp, who has traveled the state to tout the accessibility of Georgia’s elections this year. The verification process Georgia uses was pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010.

The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the legal nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta brought the lawsuit, and they are being helped by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Project Vote, among other national voting advocacy groups.

It is the third lawsuit this year over the state's handling of voter records. Project Vote sued Georgia in July over concerns that it was not disclosing public information explaining why voter registration applications are rejected. In February, the Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause sued over the state's longtime practice of sending "confirmation of address" notices to voters who haven't cast a ballot in three years and removing them from voter rolls if they do not respond.