Georgia accused of failing to offer voter registration to public assistance clients
ATLANTA, Georgia: Several civil liberty organizations have joined forces with nonpartisan voter rights groups in accusing the State of Georgia of deliberately failing to provide low-income state residents a legally-mandated opportunity to register to vote, this according to a letter issued to Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.
Allegra Chapman, counsel for the private practice firm of Dechert LLP, just one of the several groups of attorneys representing the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, argues that in violating Section 7 the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which "requires state public assistance agencies providing services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid to provide voter registration services to their clients," the "state is infringing the rights of thousands." In addition to the State Conference branch of the NAACP, attorneys from other voter rights organizations including Project Vote and the ACLU Voting Rights Project have offered their assistance in forcing the state to comply with the regulations of the NVRA.
These organizations contend that while state voter registration via public assistance agencies boomed in the early years after the NVRA became effective - resulting in 100,000-plus applications - those numbers have dwindled since, especially in the last two years. Since 2008, "the number of voter registration applications submitted through public assistance agencies in Georgia had fallen more than 79 percent, to fewer than 11,000 per year" and field investigations conducted by various voter rights groups determined that at least 8 in 11 State Department of Human Services offices failed to provide voter registration applications to clients.
Project Vote, which released the press release concerning the matter and is taking an active role in pushing the issue, is not without controversy. Project Vote has been labelled by some conservative-leaning advocates as being the voter registration arm of the now defunct controversial community-based advocacy group, ACORN, and has "been accused of voter registrations fraud in more than a dozen states," including Nevada and Ohio.