Judge Upholds Georgia’s Voter Citizenship Verification Requirements

Judge Upholds Georgia’s Voter Citizenship Verification Requirements

A win for Election Integrity advocates

By Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times

A federal judge has dismissed a legal challenge to Georgia’s voter citizenship verification requirements, keeping in place the state’s process of cross-checking citizenship status to determine voter eligibility and handing a win to election integrity advocates.

Judge Eleanor Ross of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued a ruling on April 11 that dismisses a lawsuit brought by a coalition of advocacy groups nearly six years ago that claimed Georgia’s voter citizenship verification requirements unfairly discriminated against naturalized citizens, who are more likely to be people of color.

Following a three-day trial, the judge ruled that all four of the plaintiffs’ claims—including that the protocols violated multiple federal laws, the U.S. Constitution, and unfairly burdened the right to vote—are dismissed.

 

A file image of voters standing in line to cast their ballots during the first day of early voting in the U.S. Senate runoff, in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 14, 2020. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
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Judge Eleanor Ross of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued a ruling on April 11 that dismisses a lawsuit brought by a coalition of advocacy groups nearly six years ago that claimed Georgia’s voter citizenship verification requirements unfairly discriminated against naturalized citizens, who are more likely to be people of color.

Following a three-day trial, the judge ruled that all four of the plaintiffs’ claims—including that the protocols violated multiple federal laws, the U.S. Constitution, and unfairly burdened the right to vote—are dismissed.

In so doing, the judge sided with a motion for summary judgment made in 2021 by the defendant, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who argued that the state’s protocols for matching naturalized citizens’ voter registrations with the state’s citizenship records were “entirely reasonable” and placed a “minimum burden” on applicants.

Mr. Raffensperger argued that, in almost every case, the requirement was fulfilled by matching driver’s licence or state identification numbers submitted for voter registration with corresponding records at the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) to confirm citizenship status.

When a naturalized citizen registers to vote in Georgia, their county registrar verifies proof of citizenship using DDS data. If that voter’s citizenship cannot be verified through that database, the onus is on the voter to submit proof of citizenship within 26 months or their voter registration application will be canceled.

The plaintiffs have alleged that DDS data is often outdated, leading many naturalized citizens’ voter registrations to be flagged and canceled unfairly.

Mr. Raffensperger disputed the claim that this issue affected many people, arguing in his motion that “any arguable burden on this small group of people to demonstrate they are now citizens is minimal and does not go beyond the ‘usual burdens of voting’ because it can be resolved as simply as showing the same photo identification that every Georgia voter is required to show in order to vote in person in Georgia.”

He also argued that the citizenship process serves a “compelling interest” in ensuring that only eligible voters are allowed to cast a vote, an argument raised by election integrity advocates across the country amid various disputes over voting rules.

‘Common Sense’ Versus ‘Disappointing’

The plaintiffs sued Mr. Raffensperger in 2018, arguing that the state’s protocols for matching naturalized citizens’ voter registrations with the state’s citizenship records violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

They also claimed that these protocols put an unfair burden on the right to vote, in violation of 1st and 14th Amendment protections, while also claiming that the requirements ran counter to the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by delaying or denying qualified voters from registering to cast ballots.

The coalition of groups asked the court to rule that the citizenship matching protocols were illegal, and to permanently block their enforcement.

The case eventually went to trial on April 8, 2024, leading to a favorable ruling for Mr. Raffensperger and delivering a win to election integrity advocates more generally.

Ensuring that only U.S. citizens vote in our elections is critically important to secure and accurate elections,” Mr. Raffensperger said in a statement praising the ruling.

“Georgia’s citizenship verification process is common sense and it works. With this ruling, we are able to continue ensuring that only U.S. citizens are voting in our elections,” he added.

Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, one of the plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that the ruling is disappointing as it keeps in place obstacles to casting a vote.

“This is disappointing because it will potentially disenfranchise citizen voters who now have to jump through multiple bureaucratic hurdles to vote,” Ms. Dennis said. “It will also create shock waves that may chill other new voters from trying to vote, even when they are eligible.”

“Sadly, Georgia’s lawful voters will bear the brunt of anti-immigrant sentiments,” she added.

Election Integrity or Voter Suppression?

The ruling comes amid concern in some circles that noncitizens—including some of the many millions of illegal immigrants who have entered the United States since President Joe Biden took office—may cast votes unlawfully in the high-stakes 2024 election.

It also comes amid a broader fight between those who see election integrity efforts as “voter suppression” and those who believe that the security of U.S. elections is too lax and should be tightened.

According to a running tally by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, expansive voting laws far outpaced restrictive ones in 2023.

At least 53 expansive voting laws were introduced last year in at least 23 states, compared to 17 restrictive laws being passed in 14 states, suggesting that the election integrity movement is falling behind.

Amid concerns over voter fraud, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently suggested that to win the presidential election in November, Republicans need to outvote Democrats by a significant margin.

Everybody who wants an honest election should know that in the long run, we need the French model. Everybody votes on the same day. Everybody has a photo ID, everybody’s accounted as a person,” Mr. Gingrich said in a February interview on Fox News.

“But until we get to that, if Republicans want to win this year, under the rules that exist this year, they need to outvote the Democrats by about 5 percent, which is a margin big enough that it can’t be stolen,” he said.

Elsewhere, an election integrity monitor laid out over a dozen “critical” reforms that it believes are necessary in order to secure voter integrity in the 2024 election, including outlawing ranked choice voting and non-citizen voting, consolidating election dates, requiring voter ID, and safeguarding vulnerable mail ballots.

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(TLB) published this article by Tom Ozimek as posted at The Epoch Times and ZH

Header featured image (edited) credit: Judge Eleanor Ross/Gwinnett County Bar Assoc

Emphasis added by (TLB)

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