Suit alleges that Georgia is illegally bumping voters off rolls

A federal lawsuit has accused Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp of illegally bumping Georgia voters off the state’s rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Kemp’s office has denied the claim.

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.

“People have a right to vote and they also have a constitutional right not to vote,” said attorney Emmet J. Bondurant, who is representing the groups. Federal law, he said, does not allow state officials to demand confirmation of address if they have no reason to believe a voter has moved other than that they have not cast a ballot.

Kemp’s office, however, has adamantly denied it removes voters because they do not vote. In a letter describing the process, the state Attorney General’s Office said voters are 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.

The procedure, state officials said, is allowed by federal law.

In a statement, Kemp called the lawsuit “completely without merit and frivolous.” He said the state has already “clearly explained to plaintiff’s counsel multiple times that Georgia law is consistent” with the National Voter Registration Act.

According to the suit, 372,242 voters had their voter registration status canceled “due to failure to vote” during a two-year period from October 2012 to November 2014, according to statistics provided by the state to the United States Election Assistance Commission.

The number, the groups said, exceeded the total number of new registrants in Georgia during the same two-year period, when 364,382 new voters registered statewide. More than 6 million voters are currently registered in Georgia.

The groups are asking a federal judge to stop what they say is the state’s practice. They also want the judge to make the state restore voters who have been removed from the rolls.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.