Gov. Sonny Perdue has tapped a private attorney to sue the Justice Department on the state’s behalf to seek approval for a controversial system of checking voters citizenship, a system that the federal government says unfairly targets minority voters.
Perdue named Anne Lewis, the state GOP’s general counsel, to be a special attorney general.
The system of voter verification was implemented by former Secretary of State Karen Handel prior to the November 2008 elections. The Justice Department, then under the control of Republican President George W. Bush said the program should have been submitted to the department under the auspices of the federal Voting Rights Act. Once submitted by the state, the Justice Department rejected it on the grounds it could prevent legal residents from voting.
Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, defended the system against a federal court challenge and sought preclearance from t he Justice Department. But the agency, now under the purview of Democratic President Barack Obama again refused to approve it. Baker said he has been working with Justice and believes the department is now poised to give its approval, but current Secretary of State Brian Kemp and the governor say they believe that will never happen and that the state h as provided the federal government all the information it has requested.
Kemp and Perdue asked Baker to file the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, but Baker refused. Perdue decided to move forward on his own.
Georgia must obtain federal preclearance of any change affecting voting either from the Justice Department or through a lawsuit.