Lawsuit filed to grant emergency voter registration extension in Chatham County

Cheers, gripes conclude Ga. voter registration

ATLANTA - A lawsuit has been filed to seek an emergency extension for voter registration for Chatham County in the wake of Hurricane Mathew.

The Lawyers’ Committee of Civil Rights Under Law, along with the Bryan Cave law firm, filed the petition suit in the United States District Court for Chatham County after several residents missed the opportunity to register following a tropical storm that impacted the area.

The storm resulted in the closing of County government offices for what would have been the last six days of the voter registration period.  Despite requests to extend the deadline, both Governor Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp refused to do so, according to a statement released by the law firm.

Residents in Chatham County lost power following the storm, and it was one of the six counties subject to a mandatory evacuation order. There are over 200,000 citizens of voting age. The release states 40 percent are African American or Latino.

The lawsuit sheds light on how other states moved deadlines prior to the storm. In Florida, voter registration was extended by court order and in South Carolina it was moved voluntarily.

The complaint alleges the failure to extend the voting deadline violates the fundamental constitutional right to vote and the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, which require states to receive and process voter registration forms for a full 30 days prior to Election Day.

You can see the complaint filed here.

“We had hoped that Georgia would do the right thing by its citizens and not penalize aspiring voters impacted by Hurricane Matthew,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee.  “There is no right more important than the right to vote, and this suit seeks to ensure that those who wish to exercise that right are not arbitrarily blocked by the vicissitudes of a hurricane and the hardened stance of elections officials.”

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