Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Secures Victory Extending Voter Registration Deadline for Georgia Runoff Election

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May 4, 2017

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Secures Victory Extending Voter Registration Deadline for Georgia Runoff Election

Court’s Decision Extends Deadline for Georgia’s Upcoming Sixth Congressional District Contest and all Future Federal Runoff Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a federal court in Georgia issued an injunction requiring Georgia election officials to allow voters to cast a ballot in an important congressional runoff election if they register up to 30 days beforehand.  The order, issued from the bench, stops implementation of a Georgia law that allowed voters to participate in the runoff election only if they had registered 30 days before the initial election, roughly 90 days before the scheduled runoff.  The decision was issued by the Honorable Timothy Batten, Sr., United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Georgia.  Judge Batten concluded that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 takes precedence over conflicting state laws when conducting federal elections. Per the order of the court, eligible individuals will have through May 21st to register and vote in the upcoming special election in the state.

“Would-be voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District were denied a full and fair opportunity to register and vote under the prior law,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee.  “Today’s decision extending the voter registration deadline helps ensure that eligible voters will be able to participate in the upcoming runoff election, and in all future runoff elections for federal office. States like Georgia must stop taking actions that suppress the rights of voters.”

The case was brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and its pro bono counsel Hogan Lovells US LLP, and the Law Office of Bryan L. Sells, LLC.  The plaintiffs in this case are the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Inc., Georgia NAACP, Third Sector Development, Inc. (parent of the New Georgia Project), and ProGeorgia State Table, Inc., all organizations that devote considerable resources to registering voters, particularly minority citizens, and Jill Boyd Myers, an affected voter who moved into the Sixth Congressional District shortly after registration closed in March.

“It is very gratifying that the Court recognized that any administrative hurdles that election officials might face in extending the deadline pale in comparison to the harm incurred by disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters from this important runoff election,” said Ira M. Feinberg, who argued the motion on behalf of the plaintiffs.

“We strongly urge Sixth Congressional District residents who have not registered to vote to take full advantage of the extension and submit voter registration forms online, in person, or by mail postmarked no later than May 21, 2017, to ensure that they are able to vote in the upcoming runoff election on June 20, 2017,” added Clarke.

Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act requires states to ensure that any person can vote in an election for a federal office if he or she registers to vote at least 30 days before that election. The governing federal statute specifically defines “election” as including runoff elections. Georgia law, however, does not allow a person to vote in the runoff if he or she had not registered in time for the first round of the election necessitating the runoff. This, the Court ruled, is inconsistent with the federal law, and must give way to the controlling federal law.

If prospective applicants have any questions about the Court’s Order, they may call the national, nonpartisan Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE for additional information, or locally, they may call ProGeorgia at (404) 583-3871

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