Washington, D.C. — Today, following reports of barriers to voting in Georgia, the Center for American Progress issued a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp calling for immediate action to ensure all eligible voters have uninhibited access to the polls and can exercise their legal and constitutional right to vote.
Reports from Georgia reveal that the state’s website with vital voter information went down on Tuesday, and the polling location on Georgia Tech’s campus is charging voters for parking in order to vote there.
“Egregious voting issues reported in Georgia today are simply unacceptable and need immediate attention from local officials. Georgia officials need to address the fact that voters in their state at Georgia Tech polling locations are effectively being charged to cast their votes” said Michele L. Jawando, Vice President of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. “Georgia’s history of voter suppression in this election cycle—including tens of thousands of Georgians facing voter registration barriers earlier this year—make the call to address voting issues reported on the ground today all the more urgent.”
November 4, 2014
Brian P. Kemp,
Georgia Secretary of State,
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Suite 802 Floyd West Tower,
Atlanta, Georgia, 30334
Dear Secretary Kemp,
RE: Election Administration Issues
The right to vote is a core tenet of our citizenship. As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. explains, “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” McCutcheon v. FEC, 134 S. Ct. 1434, 1440-41 (2014). This protection is enshrined in the 15th Amendment, which prohibits states from denying the right to vote based on race, and in several state constitutions.
Today, however, there is evidence of barriers to voting in Georgia that need to be immediately addressed. For example, there are reports that your website, touted as a way for voters to find their polling locations, was down this morning. Another report indicates that voters were required to pay for parking at Georgia Tech’s student center polling location and voters left polling locations because of excessively long lines. Today’s disturbing reports come after a lawsuit was filed alleging that upwards of 40,000 voter registrations from three Georgia counties have gone missing.
The examples of long lines, missing registrations, and a disabled voter information website makes it clear that voters in Georgia are not freely able to exercise this most cherished right. We call upon the secretary of state’s office and the county board of elections to investigate and address these issues immediately to ensure that Georgians can exercise their legal right to vote.
Georgia’s Courts have long upheld the importance of an unabridged right for eligible Georgians to vote. As described by the Georgia Supreme Court, “The right to vote is fundamental, forming the bedrock of our democracy. However, it is also clear that states are entitled to broad leeway in enacting reasonable, even-handed legislation to ensure that elections are carried out in a fair and orderly manner.” Favorito v. Handel, 285 Ga. 795, 796 (Ga. 2009) (citations omitted).
As the Presidential Commission on Election Administration noted, there are problems with voter registration, access to the polls, polling place management, and voting technology that need to be addressed. We concur.
The same concern extends to casting provisional ballots, which become even more relevant as these suppressive laws are implemented. As the Center for American Progress found, counties with a higher percentage of minorities cast provisional ballots at a higher rate than in counties with lower percentage of minorities in 16 states. We were unable, however, to evaluate Georgia in our analysis. Shockingly, Georgia was the only state to have incomplete county-level provisional ballot Election Assistance Commission data after it was required.
To ensure that Georgians can exercise their legal right to vote, immediate action must be taken to address these concerns.
Michele L. Jawando