Georgia ends 90-day “black-out” period for voter registration

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office for years did not process voter forms submitted in the 90 days after a registration deadline, a practice meant to ensure that ineligible voters did not cast a ballot in an election.

No more. The office is ending the practice immediately, saying the 90-day black-out period is no longer needed.

The policy began in an era when voters registered only on paper, and was a way to prevent accidental voting by anyone who missed the deadline. But in an age of electronic record-keeping, the office says its current online system will prevent accidental voting from happening.

Voter advocacy groups including The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Georgia NAACP cheered the decision, a rare show of support since the groups are often at odds with the office over voter registration issues.

“Because of my office’s work implementing e-government solutions to make elections more efficient, we were able to eliminate voter registration black-out periods,” Secretary of State Brian Kemp said of his decision to end the ban. “I am glad that the Lawyers’ Committee and the NAACP can agree with me that this improvement benefits Georgia’s voters.”

Anyone who registers after a deadline still cannot vote in the next election. But allowing the forms to be processed in the interim gives voters more time to correct any problems or answer any questions local officials may have, the groups said, and gets voters ready for the election after that. This year, that could mean the November presidential election.

Today is the deadline to register for Georgia’s May 24 primary election, which features several key congressional and state legislative contests, along with local races.

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