AALAC Sends Open Letter to Secretary of State on behalf of 574 New Voters Who Have Not Been Processed
October 31, 2012.
Today the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, Inc. (AALAC) sent an open letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Director of the State Elections Division Linda Ford on behalf of 574 new voter registration applicants who as of October 30th had not been registered to vote or flagged as requiring additional verification. A copy of the open letter can be viewed below and by clicking here: Open Letter to GA SOS.
“With less than a week away from the November 6th election, it is deeply concerting to find so many applicants unprocessed or in need of more information,” said Helen Ho, AALAC’s Executive Director. AALAC assisted more than 1,430 individuals with their voter registration applications before the October 9th registration deadline.
Through a form by form review, AALAC has found that 292 applicants have not been processed as of October 30th, with the largest number of unprocessed applicants coming from Fulton County (139 applicants). AALAC staff confirmed by checking the Secretary of State My Voter Page website and by calling different county election offices.
In addition, 282 applicants have been flagged as requiring additional verification, mostly involving additional citizenship verification of newly naturalized citizens. Calls to county election boards inquiring for more information or clarification have led to conflicting instructions and information. AALAC staff was also told by all the contacted counties that the challenged applicants received notification by mail; however, applicants we called stated they had not received any notification.
“AALAC has done the pain-staking work of following up on the status of every person we assisted and found that 40% or 574 of all the applicants we assisted will be unable to vote or face extreme difficulty exercising their right to vote,” said Ho. One challenged voter took proactive measures and called the Gwinnett County Elections Board – he received multiple and conflicting information on his ability to vote. Calls that AALAC staff have made to different county election boards and with Secretary of State staff have also resulted in differing and conflicting information on the registration and voting process.
“We understand that there are resource and time pressures that the Secretary of State and county elections offices are facing. However, it does not take a lot of man-power to proactively anticipate the problems that seem to surface during every election cycle and provide clear instructions or best practices that all counties can follow,” said Ho. In addition to asking the Secretary of State to process and clear the 574 applicants, AALAC is also requesting clarifying instructions and information on the use of naturalization papers and provisional ballots that can be shared with county boards and with new voters. “Voting is a right given to all US citizens, and given the near absence of proof of voter fraud in our state and nation, voter registration policies should make it easier not harder for citizens to go out and vote.”
October 31, 2012
Via Electronic Mail
Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp
Linda Ford, Director, State Elections Division
Georgia Secretary of State Office
2 MLK Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 802 West Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Re: An Open Letter on behalf of 574 Unprocessed and Challenged Voter Registration Applicants
Dear Secretary of State Kemp and Director Ford,
I serve as the Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center (AALAC), the first nonprofit law center dedicated to increasing the civic participation of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Asian-ethnic refugees (“Asian Americans”) in Georgia and the Southeast. During the last three months we have focused much of our time assisting citizens in Georgia register to vote with a focus on Asian American citizens. As of the October 9th registration deadline, we assisted more than 1,430 new voters in our state. Of those new voters, and in compliance with Georgia laws and your regulations, we received consents from approximately 1,200 of those voters to mail their forms and check their registration status.
We mailed registration applications in bulk per registration drive within 1-2 days of each drive. We included in the package the requisite Transmittal Summary sheet describing the date and time of the drive and the number of registered applicants. We also provided a general description of our drive, including whether it was held (for example) at a Naturalization Ceremony.
Over the last two weeks, we have received an increasing number of calls from people who have not received their registration card or any other notice from your office or their county elections office. That prompted our office to check on the registration status of every single new voter registrant whose information we had on file.
As of today, 40% or 574 of the voters we helped to register are either being challenged or are unprocessed. With less than a week before the November 6th election, we are deeply concerned and asking for your immediate response and assistance.
Of that total, 292 voter registration applications are not showing up on your My Voter Page (https://mvp.sos.state.ga.us/Login.aspx) as of October 30 2012. The majority of those unprocessed applications are ones in Fulton County (139 applicants), followed by Gwinnett (47 applicants), Dekalb (24) and Cobb (19). Attached please find an excel sheet (Attachment A) that provides identifying information for each of these unprocessed applicants. These applicants completed their forms at different drives, at different times, for different counties – we are unable to determine why these particular individuals are not processed.
The remaining 282 voter registrants are flagged as requiring additional verification mostly involving citizenship. Most, but not all, of these individuals are new citizens we helped to register at different USCIS Citizenship Naturalization Ceremonies. Attached please find an excel sheet (Attachment B) that provides identifying information for each of these challenged applicants. We are especially disheartened about these challenges — most are new Americans who waited years, paid $680 in fees and passed a rigorous examination to become citizens.
We understand the time pressures, lack of resources, and other issues that your office and the county election offices are facing. We appreciate the professionalism and assistance we have received so far on the phone from your staff and others. However, given the importance of voting and the right every citizen has to vote, we ask you to please take immediate action and process or approve all of these applicants. These applicants have followed the process and trusted they would be eligible to vote without undue complications or challenges.
In addition to the above, we request you provide uniform rules and immediate clarification on the following, as both SOS and election county employees are providing conflicting information. We want to be able to educate and prepare voters, and it is difficult to do so when we are not given consistent information.
- Clarification on deadlines to process registration forms and send letters requesting verification. When we contacted different county election offices to inquire on a number of registration forms that are being challenged for additional citizenship verification, we were told notification letters had been mailed to the applicants. However, none of the applicants we contacted received any notification from the County Elections office. We request clarification on deadlines to process voter registration applications, as well as the process of and deadlines for sending verification letters.
- Clarification on Processing of Provisional Ballots with ID. We have been told contradicting information on the use of provisional ballots. We have been told by one employee from Fulton County that providing an ID at the poll site when voting by provisional ballot will suffice to process their ballot, and later told by another Fulton County employee that they have to submit their ID a second time to their elections office after voting by provisional ballot. Given the extremely short time frame, we would respectfully request that you issue clarifying information to county election boards who receive provisional ballots by individuals who provide acceptable ID at the polls. We understand counties make these decisions but I am certain that they and voters would appreciate any efforts on your part to provide uniform instructions.
With nearly zero proof of voter fraud in this state or nationally, we respectfully submit that voters who show proper ID at the polls do not need to prove their eligibility a second time at the county elections office.
3. Clarification of Showing Naturalization Papers to Vote by Provisional Ballots. We have been told by an employee at Cobb County that a challenged voter registrant can provide a copy of their naturalization papers at the poll site on November 6th, and that would suffice to process their ballot. However, an employee at Gwinnett County said that a challenged voter registrant must first provide a copy of their naturalization papers to the elections office by November 9th. We have heard from challenged voters who have attempted to vote early and who have been given additional contradictory instructions and information. Given the extremely short time frame, we would respectfully request that you issue a letter informing counties that these applicants be allowed to provide their naturalization papers at the polls to vote and that this will suffice to process their ballot.
We would appreciate you sharing this letter with the appropriate county election officials and thank you in advance for your prompt attention and help in ensuring these citizens are afforded their right to vote.
Helen Kim Ho, Executive Director
Attachments (to Secretary of State only)