Georgia won’t meet with Lawyers’ Committee over voter applications

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office declined Thursday to meet with the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights over the handling of thousands of pending voter registration applications, despite the group saying it made the request as “a good faith effort to avoid litigation.”

It made the decision as local officials raced to finish processing new voter requests ahead of Monday’s start of early voting statewide. As that work continues, voter rights advocates have asked the state to account for more than 40,000 paper applications submitted by the New Georgia Project, a Democratic-backed group under investigation by Secretary of State Brian Kemp for alleged voter registration fraud.

Advocates said they cannot confirm those forms have been processed, despite having been submitted before the state’s Oct. 6 registration deadline. They have other concerns: Many of the forms involve voters who tried to register using the last four digits of their Social Security number instead of a driver’s license or state-issued ID; and some of those registrants are confused by form letters mailed to them by local election officials, which ask for proper identification despite the fact that the applicants correctly entered their information.

“What is the Secretary of State’s Office doing to audit whether people have been improperly placed on the pending lists due to errors in the data entry at the county level or problems with the state’s matching software?” Lawyers’ Committee attorney Julie Houk asked in a letter to Kemp’s office earlier this week.

In a reply Thursday, Secretary of State’s Office attorney Ryan Germany said the state will look into specific problems brought to its attention but, overall, “we have…not received any indication from county election officials that any voter registration applicant who timely submitted an application and provided information necessary to determine eligibility will be left off the voter rolls.”

This is not the first time the committee has taken an interest in Georgia elections. It was part of a 2008 federal lawsuit against then-Secretary of State Karen Handel to stop her practice of requiring additional identification to register to vote here.