Chatham County is no longer challenging the voter registration status of more than 300 voters in Thunderbolt and Tybee after warnings by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia that such a move would violate voting rights laws, including the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
“We thank the Board of Registrars for responding to our concerns and doing the right thing by the voters of Chatham County,” said Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director. “This is good news for voters and a teachable moment for election authorities around the state. Voters have rights, and we won’t hesitate to defend them.”
Earlier this year, the Chatham County Board of Registrars sent a letter to Thunderbolt resident Jennifer Hill stating that because Thunderbolt claimed she no longer lived in the municipality, she would be immediately “removed from the list of registered voters” if she did not appear at a hearing on August 30, 2017.
“Jennifer Hill came close to getting kicked off the voter rolls because of a bogus claim she had moved – that’s why these kinds of voter purges are so dangerous,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia. “We appreciate the Board for acting quickly and responsibly to correct this violation and protect the rights of voters.”
No evidence was provided to substantiate Thunderbolt’s claim and Hill has continued to live in Thunderbolt for the last three years. More than 300 voters in Thunderbolt and Tybee received similar letters after their voter registration status was “challenged” by their municipalities.
NVRA prohibits the removal of voters from the rolls on the ground that they have changed residence unless certain strict requirements, such as a two- to four-year waiting period, are met.
Chatham County has cancelled the August 30 hearing and sent letters to the affected voters telling them to disregard the previous mailing and clarifying that any voter who received such a notice, “should consider that notice to be withdrawn and should consider the challenge to the voter’s qualifications to be vacated.”
The incident has also prompted the Georgia Secretary of State to indicate that it will be issuing guidance and educational materials to local election authorities to ensure they comply with the NVRA.
The Board has since posted notice of these proposed changes, which will be voted upon at 10am on August 14, 2017, at 130 Peachtree Street SW, Suite 2186, Conference Room 128, Atlanta, Georgia, 30303.
“We’re pleased the Board has agreed to reconsider these changes in the light of day,” said Andrea Young, ACLU of Georgia executive director. “We encourage all voters who would be affected by these changes to attend the hearing on August 10 and make their voices heard.”