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Saturday May 23rd, 2015 4:46AM

MALDEF denounces voter check appeal to DOJ

By The Associated Press
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ATLANTA - The Mexican Legal Defense and Educaiton Fund is denouncing Georgia's appeal of the Justice Department's rejection of a voter check plan.

Secretary of State Karen Handel announced the appeal Wednesday.

Georgia is asking the Justice Department (DOJ) to reconsider its rejection of the state's system of using Social Security numbers and driver's license data to check whether prospective voters are citizens, Secretary of State Karen Handel announced Wednesday.

``I do not believe there is anything discriminatory in verifying voter information and citizenship,'' Handel said in a statement issued Wednesday. ``It is my hope that the Department of Justice will review this request, with the information and data provided, and grant preclearance to the State of Georgia for these verification processes.''

After a challenge was filed by voting rights groups in October, a federal three-judge panel did not order Georgia to immediately stop the checks but ordered the state to seek Justice Department preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Georgia is one of a number of states that need federal approval before changing election rules because of a history of discriminatory Jim Crow-era voting practices.

In a letter to Attorney General Thurbert Baker in May, the Justice Department said the state's voter verification program is frequently inaccurate and has a ``discriminatory effect'' on minority voters.

``This flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote,'' Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's civil rights division, wrote in the May letter.

The decision meant Georgia had to halt the citizenship checks, but the letter did say the state could ask the Justice Department to reconsider. Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar said the department received Georgia's request for reconsideration Tuesday and has 60 days to respond.

The checks verify five criteria for new voters against information in databases held by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration, Handel's office said.

The Justice Department said the citizenship match had flagged 7,007 individuals as non-citizens but many were shown to be in error. Handel's office said in June it was investigating more than 30 cases of non-citizens voting in Georgia's elections and more than 2,100 people who were flagged still hadn't resolved questions regarding their citizenship.

Voting rights groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in October, saying the checks amounted to a ``systematic purging'' of voter rolls just weeks before the election.

``We are disappointed that the Secretary of State has chosen to defend a flawed, unreliable database system that creates barriers to voting,'' Elise Shore, regional counsel for MALDEF, said.
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