Justice Department wants suit alleging Georgia illegally purges voters

The U.S. Justice Department has asked a federal judge to deny a request to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Georgia of illegally bumping voters off the state's rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

In a court filing, U.S. Attorney John Horn and members of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division indicated concerns with the state’s policy toward kicking voters off the rolls due to inactivity. The filing came in response to a request by Georgia officials to dismiss the suit after it was filed in February.

“This case asks whether, consistent with federal law, a state may consider a registered voter’s failure to vote to be reliable evidence that the voter has become ineligible to vote by virtue of a change of residence, thus triggering the designated NVRA (National Voting Rights Act) process,” Horn and the others wrote. “Defendant argues that it can. In fact, it cannot.”

The suit filed by the Georgia NAACP and government watchdog group Common Cause said the state is violating the National Voter Registration Act because of its longtime practice of sending “confirmation of address” notices to voters who haven’t cast a ballot in three years — and removing them from active status if they eventually do not respond.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has called the suit frivolous, and has adamantly denied the state removes voters because they do not vote. In a letter describing the process earlier this year, the state Attorney General’s Office said voters are actually removed from the rolls only after they have not had any contact with election officials in Georgia for a minimum of seven years and they have not returned a notice to confirm their residence.