Above photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images.
A seven-year investigation of voter suppression in Georgia has found that the state likely removed 200,000 voters from its rolls who were, in fact, eligible to vote. The voters whose registrations were removed were also overwhelmingly concentrated in the counties comprising the Atlanta Metro area, according to initial findings released on Wednesday.
Conducted by the Palast Investigative Fund, which specializes in data journalism, and released by the ACLU of Georgia, the report reviewed more than 300,000 registered voters whom the state had purged from its rolls. Their voter registrations had been canceled because officials concluded the people living at those addresses had moved and did not change the address on their voter registration.
According to the report, most of those people never actually moved from their addresses, and thus should have remained on Georgia’s voter rolls.
For the report, Palast hired expert firms to conduct an Advanced Address List Hygiene, a method of residential address verification, to review 313,243 names that were removed from the state’s voter rolls in late 2019. Their findings claim that 63.3% of voters had not, in fact, moved and were purged in error.
The report states that the percentage is a conservative estimate since the 63.3 percent error rate does not include “the tens of thousands of other citizens who have moved within their neighborhood, some within their buildings” and were still taken off the rolls. Those voters would have still been eligible to vote at the same polling places available to them in previous elections.
Principal investigator Greg Palast said the probe began in 2013 when his group was originally retained by a handful of news publications for a series of reports about voter purges in Georgia and other parts of the country.
“Given our findings of what appears to be large-scale disenfranchisement of legitimate voters, our foundation has chosen, in the public interest, to make our findings available to the ACLU of Georgia for review in preparation for making our findings public,” Palast wrote.
Among the report’s most concerning findings was the fact that Georgia’s records contained “extraordinary deviation” from postal records, writes Palast. According to the National Voter Registration Act, states are supposed to rely on official postal data when striking voters off their lists.
While the Georgia secretary of state’s records say more than 100,000 voters were purged because they showed up on the Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) registry, investigators who cross-referenced the data found that 75 percent of those voters were not on the official NCOA list. Georgia also appeared to strike voters off the rolls if they did not respond to a mailed confirmation postcard or if the postcard sent was sent back as “undeliverable.” But a closer look at the data found that many of those undeliverable postcards were returned because they didn’t contain an apartment number on the address.
ACLU Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young told CNN that she was “deeply saddened” by the initial report, but was “not entirely surprised.” Young noted that the methods Georgia uses to maintain its voting list are “prone to tremendous error” and do not meet industry standards for residential address verification.
“The real takeaway from this is the state of Georgia is using a methodology for maintaining its voter rolls that is both more expensive and less accurate than what industry would use to maintain a high-quality mailing list,” Young said.
CNN cited previous reporting in which Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger characterized this mass removal of voters as routine maintenance, not a purge, which is all the more cause for concern.
Palast said a final report containing detailed analysis about the demographics of the affected voters was forthcoming, but noted that the state’s methods would disproportionately cull registrations from young people, those living in urban areas, African American voters, and non-English speakers. According to the report, there was an “overwhelming concentration” of wrongfully removed registrations from voters in the Atlanta Metro area.
Georgians concerned about whether they are on the voter purge list can check the Palast Investigative Fund’s website, SaveMyVote2020.org.