A recent Augusta Chronicle report states election officials in the overwhelmingly black and sparsely populated Hancock County agreed to restore the voting rights of dozens. These African-American registered voters had been disenfranchised ahead of a local election that was racially divided. The Chronicle reports that approximately three-quarters of the names purged from the voting polls – almost all of whom were black – continue to live in the voting district.
Proof of County Residency
The executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR), the organization that sued the County in federal court, noted that she wants to make sure a purge program like this is not repeated. Hancock County Board members insist they were complying with Georgia law, which allows another voter to challenge another’s eligibility, when they sent sheriff’s deputies to summon voters to appear before them and prove they lived in Hancock County.
The method that the Board members used would have needed to be pre-approved, except that the Supreme Court struck down the provisions of the Voting Rights Act two years prior. The justices found that federal oversight was no longer necessary in many places across the United States. An attorney for Hancock County’s board noted the board members failed to consider the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which requires authorities to wait until a voter has not voted in two federal elections and either confirms moving or fails to respond to mailed requests before purging the person from the voter registration. Instead, the lawsuit alleges, Hancock County offices immediately removed voters whose eligibility was challenged.
The NVRA applies to 44 states across the nation, including Georgia.
Hancock County Statistics
The lawsuit alleges that board members and those close to them challenged the voting status of 187 people, in a race that had white candidates seeking to unseat black incumbents. The result was the ineligibility of more than 5% of one of the city’s registered voters, nearly all of whom were black.
The latest U.S. Census reports that Hancock County is almost 75% black, and about 83% of Sparta’s residents are black. It is one of the state’s poorest counties. The county’s unemployment rate is three points higher than the state’s forcing many to travel for work.
In addition to the LCCR, the Georgia NAACP and a voting-rights group known as the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda also joined the lawsuit.
Know Your Rights
It is essential to understand your civil rights, to help warn you when they are being violated. Contact a knowledgeable lawyer if you or someone you know believes your voting rights have been violated, or have any questions as to the civil rights to which you are entitled under the law.