Handel asks Justice Dept. to reconsider on voter verification

Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel on Wednesday said she has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to reconsider its ruling that the state’s system of verifying voters’ unfairly flags minorities for extra scrutiny.

Handel had two options to continue the program: ask the Justice Department to reconsider or appeal its decision to the U.S. District Court in Washington.

“It is my hope that the Department of Justice will review this request, with the information and data provided, and grant preclearance to the state of Georgia for these verificdation processes,” Handel said in a statement.

Handel, also a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, has slammed the decision as being politically motivated by President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration. She has consistently referred to the decision as having come from “Obama’s Justice Department.” That phrase, however, was absent from Wednesday’s release.

Handel devised the voter verification system in response to the federal Help Americans Vote Act, which requires states to verify citizens’ identities before allowing them to register to vote. But Handel took the process a step further and also created a system to verify voters’ citizenship.

The Justice Department, in reviewing the system after it was put in place, found that of the 7,000 individuals flagged as potential “non-citizens,” more than half were actually U.S. citizens.

Furthermore, the department found, those flagged as non-citizens were overwhelmingly black, Asian or Hispanic.

“These burdens are real, are substantial and are retrogressive for minority voters, ” Loretta King, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a letter to the state in May.

Handel never submitted the new system for Justice Department approval before implementing it. She believed that since the federal HAVA law required the system, preclearance from DOJ wasn’t necessary. Georgia and several other states are required, under the Voting Rights Act, to gain DOJ approval before making any changes to state voting and election laws.

But the Justice Department — then controlled by President George W. Bush — having been informed about the new voter verification system first by the Obama campaign, and later through a federal lawsuit, ordered Georgia to submit the system for review.

10 comments Add your comment


August 12th, 2009
3:15 pm

“Handel devised the voter verification system in response to the federal Help Americans Vote Act, which requires states to verify citizens’ identities before allowing them to register to vote. But Handel took the process a step further and also created a system to verify voters’ citizenship.”

If the above statement is entirely correct then Handel has no one to blame but herself for this waste of taxpayer money. There is a big difference between “identity” & “citizenship”. If she does not know the difference in the two words….well enough said.


August 12th, 2009
5:31 pm

Verification of citizenship is allowed under HAVA. Handel’s system would have been acceptable to the DOJ… if it had worked.

Instead, her flawed system (a) would have prevented >3500 citizens from voting legally, (b) disproportionately affected minorities, and (c) sidestepped the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Which is ironic considering the Voting Rights Act was passed to prevent discriminatory voting practices!

In response, Handel blamed the Obama administration (in fact, Georgia asked the DOJ to investigate last year), started an online petition on her campaign website (to accomplish what exactly?), and threatened to sue the DOJ (wasting even more of our tax dollars).

See here for more info, including a copy of the DOJ’s letter:


August 14th, 2009
1:56 pm

OK, maybe I just don’t understand but, unless I present identification verifying who I am, what’s to prevent me from going to more than one polling place and voting? and don’t you have to be a citizen in order to vote?…..I thought that was the law. I fail to see what the problem is. Karen Handel is right…..this is politically motivated. Please, someone that is truly nuetral, would you explain? Thanks!!!!!


August 14th, 2009
4:53 pm

dgroy: This has nothing to do with presenting ID when you vote; that is still required. This has to do with verifying citizenship when registering to vote. The question put to the DOJ was whether the system Handel implemented was working correctly. Their response was “no.”


August 14th, 2009
7:19 pm

‘Bout d*mn time. I’ve received a dozen campaign updates requesting $$$$ contributions since signing her pledge. I wonder if she can ban herself from candidacy due to abuse of office? Sure she can, will she, Nah… Did this make the paper copy or is it just on this blog?


August 14th, 2009
8:14 pm

Doug: Thanks!…..Either you’re a citizen or not…..provide the documentation…..that’s only right!!!!!I still don’t see a problem…..my answer’s the same…..it’s politically motivated.

The Snark

August 18th, 2009
4:14 pm

Karen Handel … Georgia’s very own Katherine Harris.

DJ Justice

August 23rd, 2009
9:21 pm

I was on the end of this unfortunate citizenship verification fiasco. It was a political ply cooked up by a partisan Republican official designed to frustrate legitimate voters into going home.

2 days before the election I had my citizenship verified at the county elections office, only to turn up at the polls to be told I cannot vote because I am not a citizen.

What Karen Handel has done is nothing short of racial and political profiling.


August 24th, 2009
7:57 am

Karen Handel is a partisan tool. She does not understand that when she takes political office her job is to serve all citizens, not just her political party.

[...] did as told and submitted her changes to the US DOJ for approval – and was denied. So she appealed the decision, and was recently denied again. Now, she plans to continue to waste taxpayer money on [...]