ACLU of Georgia

Candidate Appeals Disqualification From Georgia Election Over Citizenship

By Mark Niesse | Atlanta Journal-Constitution | May 22, 2018

A candidate for the Georgia House of Representatives who became a U.S. citizen last year is appealing her disqualification from this year’s elections.

Maria Palacios, a policy analyst for the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, filed a lawsuit Sunday to overturn Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s decision that she wasn’t eligible to run for the Gainesville-area House seat.
Palacios was the only Democratic candidate in Tuesday’s primary election for House District 29. If her disqualification is upheld, the incumbent, Republican state Rep. Matt Dubnik, will be re-elected without opposition in the Nov. 6 general election.
Kemp, a Republican running for governor, wrote in his decision Friday that the Georgia Constitution requires state House candidates to be “citizens of this state for two years.”
But Palacios’ lawsuit said she has been a citizen of Georgia since 2009. Palacios was brought by her parents to the United States from Mexico as an infant without authorization, and she became a U.S. citizen in 2017.
“The Georgia Constitution allows longtime Georgia residents who become United States citizens to honorably serve their communities as elected leaders, regardless of their party affiliation or national origin,” said Sean Young, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which is representing Palacios.
Kemp’s decision relied on a 1984 legal opinion from Attorney General Mike Bowers that concluded a person must be a U.S. citizen in order to be a Georgia citizen.
maria palacios capitol

Maria Palacios is appealing a decision that she’s ineligible to run for a Georgia House of Representatives seat in the Gainesville area. Photo from