MALDEF, GALEO Criticize DOJ’s approval Of Discriminatory Voting Procedures In Georgia after one-day review

GALEO, MALDEF stand ready to assist minority voter applicants with expected voter registration problems

ATLANTA, GA – MALDEF and the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), have filed a notice in the ongoing lawsuit, Georgia v. Holder, protesting the abrupt decision by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 18 after a one-day review by the agency to administratively approve a set of flawed and racially discriminatory voter registration procedures proposed by the State of Georgia.

The DOJ approved Georgia’s plan on August 18, only one day after receiving the plan from the state, despite minimal improvements made to the state’s proposal that had been previously rejected by the DOJ. In making its decision, the DOJ departed from its normal course and practice by failing to provide opportunity for public comment and opposition.

In filing the notice, MALDEF and GALEO were joined by the NAACP LDF on behalf of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, the Southern Regional Office of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, as well as Michael B. Wright, Sr. and Janice Mathis in their individual capacities.

The civil rights groups initially sued to challenge the voting procedures in October 2008 after a number of U.S. citizens were improperly denied their right to vote. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination must obtain federal approval before implementing any changes in their voting practices or procedures. A federal court issued a temporary halt to the procedures on October 27, 2008 because the Georgia Secretary of State had failed to submit the voting procedures for federal preclearance as required by the Voting Rights Act

In May 2009, the DOJ blocked a substantially similar set of procedures submitted by the State of Georgia. The DOJ concluded that the procedures were “seriously flawed” with respect to the verification of U.S. citizenship. The DOJ also found that “[t]he impact of these errors falls disproportionately on minority voters,” and that “[t]hese burdens are real, are substantial, and are retrogressive for minority voters.”

“GALEO stands ready to assist voter applicants who are improperly rejected under this new state policy, and we encourage individuals to contact GALEO with questions about voter registration at 1-888-54GALEO (1-888-544-2536),” stated Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO.

“DOJ’s capitulation to the State of Georgia betrays the promise of the Voting Rights Act,” stated Nina Perales, National Senior Counsel with MALDEF and lead attorney for GALEO in the case. “We hope that this is not the beginning of a pattern in which DOJ permits states to adopt election laws aimed at preventing Latinos from joining the voter rolls,” continued Perales.

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund