U.S. District Court Rejects DeKalb County voter purge efforts to Stop Federal Voting Rights Lawsuit, Won’t Order Dismissal
Court Recognizes Claim Brought by the Georgia NAACP and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda Against DeKalb Elections Officials for voter purge.
A federal district court judge in Georgia denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against DeKalb County officials in a case where officials have been accused of illegally purging voters from the rolls.
In her opinion in Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections, Judge Eleanor Ross rejected the county’s argument that election officials are immune from being sued, and that the plaintiffs, the Georgia NAACP and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, do not have standing to bring the case. Judge Ross noted that the two organizations alleged that they were forced to divert resources to educate voters and attempt to assist voters impacted by DeKalb’s voter purges.
“Our democracy depends on the ability of all voters to participate in the political process,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Today’s victory is important to ensuring that voters in DeKalb County, Georgia will be provided an equal opportunity to vote and that challenges to voter eligibility will be conducted pursuant to federal law. We will continue to use the National Voter Registration Act as a tool to combat voter suppression and to achieve fairer and more democratic outcomes across our country.”
The lawsuit alleges that DeKalb County election officials are purging eligible voters in violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. DeKalb County claimed they were purging voters at the request of Decatur city officials even though the city never made any such request nor are municipalities permitted to challenge voters’ eligibility under Georgia law. The voter purge was instead initiated by a DeKalb County employee with a property interest in the address at which some of the voters were registered.
“DeKalb County is using unlawful [voter] purge practices to remove voters from the rolls. All eligible voters should have a right to cast a ballot. This ruling is a step in the right direction to ensure they do,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
The county also purged voters registered at the Decatur Peer Support, Wellness, and Respite Center on the basis that no one could vote while living at the location. However, the center’s website states that people can stay overnight up to seven days a month. Many consider the Center to be their home base where they receive their mail, receive and apply for services and conduct meetings and other activities. Stable housing is not a legal prerequisite to voting. Georgians who are homeless or housing insecure are permitted to vote under state and federal law.
The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) prohibits immediate voter purge from the rolls on the basis they have moved unless the voter confirms in writing he or she has moved or unless a notice is sent to the voter and he or she goes for more than two federal election cycles without voting or contacting election officials. The protections imposed by the NVRA are intended to prevent voters from being improperly disenfranchised when they have not moved out of the jurisdiction or when they are temporarily absent from the jurisdiction for work, school, family or other obligations.