The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Tue. Oct 28, 2008

The Purge

A few weeks ago, I wrote that “in Georgia, there’s going to be a lot of people who haven’t voted since the last presidential election very angry to find they’ve been purged from the voter rolls.” And it appears it is much worse than I had feared. It’s not just people who haven’t voted in the past three years:

College senior Kyla Berry was looking forward to voting in her first presidential election, even carrying her voter registration card in her wallet.

But about two weeks ago, Berry got disturbing news from local election officials.

“This office has received notification from the state of Georgia indicating that you are not a citizen of the United States and therefore, not eligible to vote,” a letter from the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections said.

But Berry is a U.S. citizen, born in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a passport and a birth certificate to prove it.

Some voters ‘purged’ from voter rolls –

Well, then it ought to be easy to clear up quickly, eh? Not quite…

The letter, which was dated October 2, gave her a week from the time it was dated to prove her citizenship. There was a problem, though — the letter was postmarked October 9.

That built in Catch-22 happened entirely by accident, I’m sure.

In my opinion, Kyla is representative of tens of thousands of Georgians, and potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans, who are going to be very upset on election day when they cannot cast their fully valid vote. Indeed, “Berry is one of more than 50,000 registered Georgia voters who have been ‘flagged’ because of a computer mismatch in their personal identification information. At least 4,500 of those people are having their citizenship questioned and the burden is on them to prove eligibility to vote.”

It’s my understanding that federal law bans voter roll purges in the 90 days preceding an election, for precisely these timely reasons. So why is the burden of proof on a voter who has been illegally purged one month before election day?

Here we are one week before election day, and lawsuits are being filed:

A lawsuit has been filed over Georgia’s mismatch system, and the state is also under fire for requesting Social Security records for verification checks on about 2 million voters — more requests than any other state.

One of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit says Georgia is violating a federal law that prohibits widespread voter purges within 90 days of the election, arguing that the letters were sent out too close to the election date.

2 million verification checks in a state with 9.5 million citizens. 2 million verification checks in a state in which 3.25 million voted in the 2004 election. No, that doesn’t sound fishy at all.

So what does the person responsible for this have to say about the possibility valid voters will not be able to exercise their rights on election day? “Georgia’s Secretary of State Karen Handel, a Republican who began working on purging voter rolls since she was elected in 2006, said that won’t happen. If there are errors, she said, there is still plenty of time to resolve the problems.”

“Plenty of time”? Will someone please flip the page on Ms. Handel’s calendar, because it must still show it is August, not six days from the election.

She claims that those who’ve been challenged will be “allowed” to vote via a provisional ballot. This paper ballot will then be reviewed by county officials, who will use some unknown means to determine whether the vote counts or not.

So someone like Kyla Berry can be assured that her vote will count … if the coin comes down heads.

Because in these critical times, in an election that affects us all, we want to make sure that as few people as possible get a free swing at exercising their right to vote.

Peanut Gallery

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