A significant number of the almost 5000 Georgia voters whose citizenship was challenged before the election will not have their ballots counted.
Last week, about 4,770 voters were told they would have to vote on paper ballots because their citizenship was in question. It was then up to them to return to their local election boards with proof of citizenship.
In several counties, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, about one third of those voters neither returned with the necessary documents, nor showed up to last-chance hearings late last week. As a result, in many counties at least, their ballots will be thrown out.
The issue is not merely academic for this year’s election. Neither major candidate got 50 percent of the vote in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race, forcing a run-off to be held December 2nd. Voters whose ballots were thrown out would presumably also be barred from voting in the runoff.
The state requires newly registered voters to verify their citizenship — a requirement that has been questioned by the U.S. Department of Justice and is the subject of a lawsuit.
Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel — who before the election was criticized by voting-rights groups for taking an overly restrictive approach to voting — verifies citizenship by checking voter registration information against state records.
Handel has said that the only people who were checked were new voters or those who changed an essential piece of information on their registration form. But it’s unclear on exactly what basis the citizenship challenges were made.
We’ll keep you posted as things become clearer.