Shortly before midnight on Saturday, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State quietly issued an “Emergency” rule change that allows any county elections registrar to block a citizen’s new registration if the voter does not have a car registered in Georgia.
I kid you not.
This especially affects low-income urban voters without cars—i.e. voters of color—and students who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, just prior to January 5 run-off for Georgia’s two US Senate seats.
There was an “emergency” meeting of the State Board of Elections at 8 AM on Monday. Our team was there on the Zoom meet as were the NAACP and Helen Butler, head of the Georgia Coalition for a Peoples Agenda.
The “emergency” rule is supposed to stop voter fraud by those coming into Georgia just to vote in the run-off. So, Palast Investigative Fund Asst. Producer Terry Manpearl asked if the Sec. of State found even one single case of a non-Georgian illegally voting. They did not answer.
The Board then announced that they did not have to vote to adopt the rule—but could adopt it without a vote nor even public comment because the Attorney General wrote they could simply issue the regulation as a “guidance” not a rule.
Columbia University law professor Barbara Arnwine told us, no-car no-vote “emergency” regulation, “Is a clear violation of the NVRA,” the National Voter Registration Act. Arnwine, dean of America’s voting rights lawyers and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, said she suspected the state changed from a “rule” to a “guidance” to try to get around the NVRA’s prohibition on rules changes within 90 days of an election. However, she said, that’s a trick which fails the smell test. “It’s in substance a change of rules.”
Technically, the state can’t stop a Georgia citizen from voting because they don’t have a car. Rather, any registrar can “challenge” and thereby delay a voter’s registration until they have a hearing where they will be required to prove residence This creates a huge impediment to new voters (and remember, they don’t have a car).
As a practical matter, a challenged car-less voter will be unlikely to vote in the January 5 run-off.
Combining the holidays with Covid, it is hard to imagine that voters can complete the hearing process and get a decision in time to vote. And, as a practical matter, few challenged voters will put themselves through a court-like hearing.
The grounds for the challenge is that new registrant, having no auto registered in Georgia, may be a non-resident attempting to commit the felony crime of illegal registration.
Comment: This is Jim Crow all over again. The so-called ‘guidance’ directs registrars to check auto registration and, at their discretion, challenge the voter and force them to a hearing. It is effectively a poll tax – no car, no vote – combined with the old ‘literacy’ test game of Georgia’s past when, at the ‘discretion of the registrar, white people were asked to name the president while Black citizens were asked to recite the Constitution. I’ve been investigating Georgia vote suppression techniques for seven years, and this is simply a variant of a trick they used before to block or attempt to block voters — including my daughter.”
Palast and Butler successfully sued Georgia’s Secretary of State earlier this year obtaining a federal court ruling requiring the state to open its secret correspondence on racially-biased vote roll purges.
We will have more on this new game. Watch this space. And Georgians, register to vote in the run-off by December 7. If you are challenged, blocked or impeded in any way, let us know at GregPalast.com/contact.
The “emergency” rule “guidance” is shown below
CHAPTER 183-1 GEORGIA ELECTION CODE
SUBJECT 183-1-6 VOTER REGISTRATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
RULE 183-1-6-__-07 Determination of Residency
When reviewing an application for voter registration, the board of registrars shall determine an applicant’s residency in Georgia, using the criteria set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-217. In determining an applicant’s residency, the registrar shall review all available evidence, including whether the applicant registered through the Department of Driver Services, whether the applicant included a Georgia driver’s license or state identification number on his or her application, whether that number matched with records on file at the Department of Driver Services, the applicant’s listed address, and any identifying documents submitted with the application. If the registrar determines that additional evidence is needed to determine residency, the registrar may utilize his or her statutory authority in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-228 to further evaluate the applicant’s residency status using the criteria set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-217, as well as other related statutes. If the registrar cannot determine to his or her satisfaction that the applicant properly resides in Georgia, the registrar shall process the application, mark the applicant as “Challenged” in the voter registration system, and initiate a hearing as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-228.
In determining residency, the registrar shall consider the criteria set forth in O.C.G.A. § 21-2-217 to determine whether the applicant has established a permanent place of abode in this state. The registrar may also consider whether the applicant has a valid Georgia driver’s license or state identification card, whether the applicant has a motor vehicle registered in this state, whether the applicant has paid the required title ad valorem tax on such vehicle as required upon moving to Georgia, and any other relevant evidence in the discretion of the registrar. Authority: O.C.G.A. §§ 21-2-31, 21-2-217, 21-228