Early voters wait outside Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registration and Elections in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, October 26, 2016. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Judge dismisses suit alleging Georgia wrongly bumped voters off rolls

In the 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. said the state had taken a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” approach in trying to reach voters who had not cast a recent ballot to confirm their addresses.

Under state law, registered voters are mailed a confirmation notice following a more than three-year period of “no contact” with election officials. If voters do not respond to the notice within thirty days, they are designated as inactive — something that does not prevent them from voting and does not change their registration status.

If voters then remain inactive for two federal election cycles, meaning they have not voted or had contact with election officials for at least another four years, they are removed from voting rolls.

The suit filed early last year by the Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause claimed the state’s “trigger” for contacting voters violated federal voting laws including the National Voter Registration Act. They argued voters had a constitutional right not to vote, and state officials could not legally demand confirmation of address if they had no reason to believe a voter had moved other than that they had not cast a ballot.

Batten, however, said nothing in federal law prohibited the method used by Georgia to determine when to send out confirmation notices to voters. More so, “maintenance of accurate voter registration rolls is a substantial governmental interest,” he wrote. “Georgia’s statute is designed to serve that interest, and it does nothing to limit the vast array of other avenues of political communication.”

Georgia’s law had been cleared for use by the U.S. Justice Department in 1997.

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