ACLU of Georgia

Press Release: The ACLU of Georgia Asks Georgia Supreme Court to Reverse Superior Court Decision That Imposed an Extra-Constitutional Requirement on General Assembly Candidates


Media contact: Ana Maria Rosato

ATLANTA – Today, the ACLU of Georgia appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court the Fulton County Superior Court’s ruling that imposed an extra-constitutional two-year waiting period for U.S. citizens who wish to be General Assembly candidates, ignoring the text of the Georgia Constitution, which only requires that candidates be U.S. citizens “[a]t the time of their election.”

The language of the Georgia State Constitution is clear.

Paragraph III. Qualifications of members of General Assembly(b) At the time of their election, the members of the House of Representatives shall be citizens of the United States, shall be at least 21 years of age, shall have been citizens of this state for at least two years, and shall have been legal residents of the territory embraced within the district from which elected for at least one year. [Emphasis added.]

Maria Palacios, a candidate for Georgia State House District 29, undisputedly became a United States citizen in 2017 and has been a legal permanent resident in Georgia since 2009. Therefore, Ms. Palacios satisfies the United States citizenship requirement set forth in the Georgia State Constitution, a copy of which is located on the Secretary of State’s website.

Ignoring the plain text of the Qualifications Clause, the Secretary of State issued a final decision on May 18, 2018, that unilaterally imposed an extra-constitutional requirement for General Assembly candidates to be citizens of the United States for at least two years prior to the election rather than only “at the time of the election” as the Georgia Constitution plainly states. In effect, the Secretary of State is imposing an extra-constitutional two-year waiting period on new United States citizens.
“Georgia voters are entitled to have the opportunity to vote for any constitutionally-qualified candidate,” stated Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “The Secretary of State is obligated to uphold the Georgia Constitution instead of adding provisions to it. Preventing newly-naturalized United States citizens from running for office is unconstitutional and anathema to our democracy.”
The ACLU of Georgia asked the Georgia Supreme Court to resolve by Labor Day or no later than Election Day in November.  Additionally, if the Court is unable to accommodate that request, the ACLU of Georgia asked the Court to stay the November election for House District 29.