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10 October 2008

Congressman John Lewis: Voter ID Checks Are Intimidation & Harassment

Coming a day after a coalition of voting rights organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to halt citizenship checks on newly registered voters, Georgia Congressman John Lewis (D - Georgia) issued a statement saying that he was "deeply disturbed" to learn of the allegations leveled against Secretary of State Karen Handel in the suit.

"I think there is a deliberate, systematic effort to depress the turn out of African American, Latino and other minority voters on November 4th. This is harassment. It is intimidation, and it places an undue burden on some citizens," Lewis said. "Who decides, based on what standards which 2 million voters deserve greater scrutiny than any others? I think these actions violate both the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. They should be pursued by voting rights groups and the Department of Justice with all deliberate speed so we can make the way clear for registered voters to freely exercise their constitutional rights."

The American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and several other groups filed suit against Georgia's Secretary of State claiming that two federal laws were violated when a system was set up to verify the citizenship and eligibility of individuals registered to vote in Georgia.

Secretary of State Karen Handel defended her office's actions saying that she was following federal law. Handel also pointed to a recent court ruling in Ohio that upheld a similar system of voter citizenship and eligibility checks as evidence that Georgia's voter verification procedures were legal.

"The process to verify an applicants’ eligibility to register and vote is required by federal law, and we have followed the law," Handel said.

Congressman John Lewis, who was an active participant in the struggle for civil rights, urged all voters to become familiar with their rights so they wouldn't encounter any problems at the polls on election day.