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10 October 2008

Secretary of State Vows To Fight For Georgians' Trust In Electoral Process

Yesterday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other voting rights groups filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel seeking to stop the use of database matching procedures that they claim inaccurately flag United States citizens as non-citizens, jeopardizing their attempts to register and vote.

In a press release put out Thursday evening, the groups who brought the lawsuit against Handel argued that she was violating federal law by checking the citizenship status and eligibility of newly registered voters [Source: Georgia Politics Unfiltered, "ACLU, Election Protection File Suit Against Karen Handel Over Purge Of Voter Lists", October 9, 2008].

"The repeated challenge of the citizenship of voters in Georgia, including Latino voters, appears to be the latest tactic to suppress the right to vote in the State of Georgia. It violates federal law and we are going to court to stop it," said MALDEF Regional Counsel Elise Shore.

Secretary of State Handel defended her office's voter verification process and pointed to a recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge George C. Smith that upheld a similar system in the State of Ohio.

"On the same day that activist organizations filed a lawsuit in Georgia to prevent our state from verifying the eligibility of applicants to register and vote in our November 4 General Election, a federal judge has ruled that the Ohio Secretary of State must follow federal law and implement the exact same verification procedures," Handel said.

"The Georgia Secretary of State’s office and Georgia’s county registrars and election officials have an obligation to ensure that only U.S. citizens and Georgians who meet all the eligibility factors are allowed to register and vote. The process to verify an applicants’ eligibility to register and vote is required by federal law, and we have followed the law," she continued.

Handel also vowed to fight any attempt to "breach Georgians' trust" in the electoral process saying that she has a sworn duty to protect the integrity and security of the state's elections.