In what Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel calls a "shockingly political move," the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently discarded Georgia's voter verification program which was put in place to help prevent non-Georgia citizens from voting. According to Secretary Handel, the DOJ's new orders essentially violate federal law and contradict previous demands placed in 2007, before the new administration took office. In an exclusive statement Handel explained to us,
"The irony of this DOJ situation is that, right after I was elected I received a letter -- a demand letter if you will -- from the DOJ asking why we did not have the verification program, required by federal law, in place. The reason was pretty simple, the previous administration did not do it. We did, immediately and communicated the details to DOJ. For more than a year, the DOJ knew this verification program was in place, and no one raised a question or an objection. It was only after groups like MALDEF and the ACLU starting complaining that the DOJ become interested. When those groups sued Georgia, two federal courts ordered us to continue the verification programs -- with lawyers from the DOJ sitting in the court room.
Now seven months later, DOJ has essentially voided the court orders and are now directing us to stop the verification process -- the same process they directed us to implement in 2007. DOJ's directive prohibits the citizenship verification and even prohibits the basic verification to ensure that that individuals registering are at the very least who they say they are. The fraud potential created by the DOJ decision is vast. There are dozens of cases across the country involving improper and illegal voter registration activities by ACORN and other groups. This decision creates a gaping opportunity for additional fraud and opens the door for "universal voter registration” with no checks whatsoever.
It's also important to note that the verification process is required under the Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA specifically requires states to verify information from new voter registration applicants with the Department of Driver Services databases and with the Social Security Administration databases. DOJ's decision essentially directs us to ignore Federal law. Because of this, we have sought clarification from the DOJ. To date, we have not received a response."
Though Secretary Handel is currently working harder than any other elected official in the country to protect the rights of citizens to "fair and honest elections," the issue reaches far beyond the state of Georgia. This move by the DOJ under the Obama administration is setting the tone for the 2010 and 2012 elections and will, according to Handel, have serious implications all over the country,
So what can you do to help Handel in her effort to protect the voting rights of all American citizens? The Secretary asked us to pass along this message,
Should DOJ confirm its intention to prohibit the verification process in its entirety, all states will be affected. This is a direct assault on the integrity of elections and is yet another example of the Federal government overreaching into the state's authority. Further, I am very concerned that we are seeing the beginning of politicizing the elections process as we approach 2010 and head into 2012, which will be the first election after redistricting and reapportionment.
So, if we consider the controversies surrounding the census and the anticipated fights that will occur around redistricting, one can see that this issue here in Georgia may well have an impact nationally.
Karen Handel was elected Secretary of State in Georgia on November 7, 2006 and been a champion for the people, their rights, their tax dollars and an advocate for responsible government ever since. She is currently running for Governor of Georgia and more information can be found at her website.
"[You] can help with a mouse click or two. I started an online petition with the goal of getting 10,000 signatures of people who want their voices heard in opposition to this terrible decision. That petition now has more than 20,000 names on it. It can be found at www.karenhandel.com and I urge your readers to sign it, ask their friends to sign it, post it on their Facebook pages and tweet messages in support of it on Twitter. We can make a difference and that is the first step."
We'd like to thank Secretary Handel for taking the time to answer our questions and wish her luck with leading the fight for voters' rights.