Georgia has agreed to temporarily suspend a requirement that has prevented tens of thousands of residents from registering to vote as it works toward a possible settlement in a federal lawsuit that accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of disenfranchising minorities ahead of the presidential election. As a result, thousands of voters whose applications have been rejected since Oct. 1, 2014, may be allowed to cast a ballot on Nov. 8. The state has also agreed to stop the automatic rejection of applications that don’t exactly match information in state and federal databases as part of the agreement, which was finalized late Monday. In a letter to U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley, the state Attorney General’s Office said Kemp was voluntarily taking the actions to avoid any unexpected emergency measures imposed by the court as the lawsuit moved forward.
O’Kelley canceled a preliminary injunction hearing early Monday as a result of that effort, which will require a lot of heavy lifting from Kemp’s office so close to the election.
“Any mass data update into a system that large is cause for concern, and one the size and scope that Secretary Kemp has undertaken on his own volition is an order of magnitude larger than any previously undertaken by Georgia election officials outside of a complete system transfer,” Georgia Senior Assistant Attorney General Russell D. Willard wrote to O’Kelley.
Advocacy groups filed the suit two weeks ago, alleging that black, Latino and Asian-American applicants were far more likely than whites to be rejected due to mismatches with state and federal databases, disproportionately affecting minority voters across the state and violating the federal Voting Rights Act.