U.S. Justice Department also seeks voter information from Georgia


U.S. Justice Department also seeks voter information from Georgia

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Voters line up on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at the Hammond Park Gymnasium at 705 Hammond Dr, Sandy Springs. Lots of money and lots of voters is what will be remembered about the nationally watched election to represent Atlanta’s northern suburbs in Congress, as 6th District voters choose whether to send Republican Karen Handel or Democrat Jon Ossoff to Washington. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM.

The U.S. Justice Department has asked Georgia to explain how it updates and tracks voter registration records as well as removes voters from its rolls who should no longer be eligible to vote.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office confirmed it has received a three-page letter from the head of the department’s voting section seeking the information as part of a national request under the National Voter Registration Act. At least 44 states are believed to have received the letters, which in some cases also seeks data on how many voters were removed from the rolls under a specific time period.

Georgia’s letter, however, relates specifically to its policies and regulations. Officials said they are still working on their response and have not yet sent an answer. The department requested the information within 30 days of the letter’s June 28 mailing.

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. This would include voters who have moved to another state or who have died.

A federal judge in March dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the state’s “trigger” for contacting voters violated federal voting laws. The Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause, which are appealing the ruling, claimed voters have a constitutional right not to vote. The groups said state officials should not demand confirmation of address if they have no reason to believe a voter had moved or died other than that they had not cast a ballot.

U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr., however, 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. Georgia’s law had been cleared for use by the Justice Department in 1997.

The department’s request coincides with separate requests for Georgia voter data by President Donald Trump’s commission on election integrity. Trump formed the commission in May to investigate alleged acts of voter fraud after he made unsubstantiated claims of “millions” of illegal votes being cast during last year’s presidential election.

Election experts across the country have said there is no evidence of any widespread voter fraud.

Department officials have said their request is unrelated to the work of the voter fraud panel. Civil rights groups have raised alarms over both, saying they fear the collected information could be used to purge voting rolls and make it harder to register to vote.

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