Fabiola Diaz, 18, sits in the food court of her Georgia high school and meticulously fills out a voter registration form. Driver’s licence in one hand, she carefully writes her licence number in the box provided, her first name, last name, address, her eyes switching from licence to the paper form and back again to ensure every last detail, down to hyphens and suffixes, is absolutely correct. Diaz, and the voting rights activists holding a voter registration drive at South Cobb High School in northern Atlanta, know why it is so important not to make an error. A law passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature last year requires that all of the letters and numbers of the applicant’s name, date of birth, driver’s licence number and last four digits of their Social Security number exactly match the same letters and numbers in the motor vehicle department or Social Security databases.
The tiniest discrepancy on a registration form places them on a “pending” voter list. A Reuters analysis of Georgia’s pending voter list, obtained through a public records request, found that black voters landed on the list at a far higher rate than white voters even though a majority of Georgia’s voters are white.
Both voting rights activists and Georgia’s state government say the reason for this is that blacks more frequently fill out paper forms than whites, who are more likely to do them online. Paper forms are more prone to human error, both sides agree. But they disagree on whether the errors are made by those filling out the forms or officials processing the forms.