Lawyer’s Committee to Georgia County: Stop Purging Black Voters
The Laurens County Board of Registrars and the Laurens County Board of Commissioners, in Georgia, is in the hot seat for illegally purging minority voters, according to a democracy watchdog group, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL). The organization joined the Georgia NAACP and other groups in calling out county officials for violating Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act. Their grief pertains to officials’ push to purge voters suspected of having moved in the months leading up to Georgia’s controversial 2018 elections that saw Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp eke out a gubernatorial win after personally overseeing a massive purge of more than 1 million voters. Kemp also oversaw a state system that snarled tens of thousands of new voter application forms—many of them minority voters—over arbitrary technicalities, such as a missing hyphen in an applicant’s name.
Alleged violations in Laurens County stem from officials’ overly-vigorous effort to dump voters they erroneously classified as nonresidents. National law, according to LCCRUL, prohibits county officials from purging voters unless the voter personally confirms that he or she has moved. The jurisdiction must also adhere to an address confirmation and a waiting period mandated by the National Voter Registration Act. That same Act prohibits the systematic removal of voters from the registration rolls within 90 days of elections, if a federal candidate is on the ballot. It also requires any process to systematically remove registered voters from the registration rolls be administered in a “uniform and non-discriminatory manner.”
Laurens County officials, according to LCCRUL, violated all of those prohibitions. The organization outlined five different methods the county used to illegally purge voters, such as booting voters within 90 days of an election. It then cheerily pointed out how officials refused to provide relevant documents related to LCCRUL’s investigation, in violation of the Open Records Act.
Laurens County is a territory that is 60 percent white but contains a Black population that comprises almost 40 percent of the electorate. It baffles, then, how its five-member board of commissioners only features one Black member. That is, until you consider other somewhat undemocratic factors, according to critics.
“Georgia is a state that is one of the most aggressive when it comes to so-called voter list maintenance. Laurens County’s challenges and purges of registered voters in violation of the NVRA are particularly concerning because they not only have the effect of exacerbating the state’s aggressive list maintenance practices, but they appear to be disproportionately impacting the county’s voters of color,” said Georgia State Conference of the NAACP President Phyllis Blake in a statement.
This is a huge problem in a state where Black legislators overwhelmingly believe the 2018 election was tilted by autocratic, white politicians, like Kemp. So much so that many are openly proclaiming Gov. Kemp’s election illegitimate.
“I question whether he really even won the election because there was voter suppression involved and there are votes missing in Georgia, even to this day, so I don’t think he’s even the real governor,” Georgia Rep. Renitta Shannon told The Lighthouse recently.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is fresh off a fight with neighboring Randolph County over its plans to close majority-Black voting precincts, urged Laurens officials to “immediately restore all electors to the list of eligible voters who have been removed from the rolls in violation of Section 8(d) and confirm in writing to this office that all of the unlawfully purged voters have been restored to the active voter list.” It also urged the county to knock off any future plans to flush voters.
Like any organization comprised almost entirely of blood-thirsty lawyers, LCCRUL politely warned the county that it “reserve[s] the right to pursue all available legal remedies, including litigation and, ultimately, an award of attorneys’ fees and costs,” if it continued to violate the National Voting Registration Act.