The U.S. Justice Department has denied Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel’s appeal of its decision to reject Handel’s plan for verifying voters’ citizenship.
Handel, a 2010 Republican gubernatorial hopeful, asked the department in August to reconsider its decision to reject the system.
The Justice Department in May said the verification program is frequently inaccurate and has a “discriminatory effect” on minority voters.
The decision meant Georgia had to halt the citizenship checks, which Handel launched in 2007 in response to the Help America Vote Act. That federal law required states to verify voters’ identity, but not necessarily citizenship.
The checks verify five criteria for new voters against information in databases held by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration.
The Justice Department said the citizenship match had flagged 7,007 individuals as non-citizens but many were shown to be in error. Handel’s office said in June it was investigating more than 30 cases of non-citizens voting and more than 2,100 people who were flagged still hadn’t resolved questions regarding citizenship.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union sued Handel over the system in October, saying the checks amounted to a “systematic purging” of voter rolls just weeks before the election.
A three-judge federal panel declined to end the checks before November’s general election, but ordered the state to seek Justice Department preclearance. Georgia is required to have any change to its voting laws approved in advance by the Justice Department, as required by the Voting Rights Act.
The Justice Department in 2008 originally asked the state to submit the system for preclearance after the presidential campaign of then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama raised questions about it.
In a statement released Friday, Handel said the Justice Department “has put politics ahead of common sense.”
She said she will consider her options, which at this point include suing in federal court to overturn the Justice Department’s decision or revamping the system and asking for Justice Department approval again.