53,000 Applications Are On Hold, But Can The Applicants Still Vote?

More than 50,000 voter registration applications are pending with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office due to an “exact match” policy. 

David Goldman / Associated Press

The 53,000 voter registration applications pending with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office don’t mean the applicants can’t vote, according to Brian Kemp’s campaign.

“They’re in a pending status,” Ryan Mahoney, communications coordinator for Georgia Secretary of State Kemp’s gubernatorial run, said. “They have 26 months to present additional information, or they can just show up and vote and present their photo ID as required by Georgia law. That information will be taken on the spot, and they’ll be able to vote. Not a provisional ballot.”

Mahoney also said these voters are informed of their status by mail when they receive information about their polling location.

The applications are pending due to Georgia’s “exact match” policy. That’s a law passed by the General Assembly last year, which requires registrations match exactly with data from the Department of Driver Services or from the Social Security Administration. When registrations don’t match, they land on the “pending list,” and voters have 26 months to provide additional information.

That law passed following a lawsuit targeting a previous version of this protocol, which began in 2010. A subsequent settlement resulted in its temporary suspension, until the new law.

A similar group of nonprofits, including the New Georgia Project sued Brian Kemp over the “exact match” law Thursday.

Danielle Lang is senior legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, which is part of the suit.

“This policy doesn’t flag the right people and leads to an extraordinarily high error rate where tens of thousands of eligible voters are flagged for potential removal based on a hyphen here or a space there,” Danielle Lang, the center’s senior legal counsel, said. “They should not have been caught up in this net to begin with. These are eligible voters who have turned in complete and accurate voter registration forms. It’s only because Georgia has implemented a faulty process that they are in any danger of losing their right to vote.”

The complaint alleges the pending list from July is comprised of about 80 percent minorities.

According to the Associated Press, the most up-to-date pending lists show nearly 70 percent of these pending registrations are from African Americans. Mahoney attributed that to the work of the New Georgia Project, which works to increase voter participation among people of color. In a tweet, Kemp said the group “submitted sloppy forms.”

The group was founded by Stacey Abrams, who is Kemp’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race.

“If you’re going to blame us for doing everything that we can to make sure that all Georgians are able to participate in our elections, and that we’re bringing underserved and underrepresented groups to the democratic process, then we’ll take that blame,” said Nse Ufot, the group’s executive director. “But community organizations are not the one that are responsible for processing voter registration forms.”

Editor’s Note: This report has been updated to include information about the lawsuit filed Thursday.