The court ruling will affect about 4,500 people in Georgia who had been "flagged" by the new voter verification system and faced being denied a chance to vote Nov. 4 because their citizenship was questioned.
It could also affect more than 50,000 other registered Georgia voters also flagged by the new system because of mismatches in their personal identification information, such as discrepancies in addresses.
The three-judge panel also ordered Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel to inform all the flagged voters that they can vote.
"We are very pleased that the court agreed with our legal position that the state violated the Voting Rights Act," said Elise Shore, a lawyer with one of the civil right groups who brought the lawsuit.
Shore said the ruling applies to the 4,500 Georgians that were flagged for citizenship reasons and she was uncertain whether it applied to the some 50,000 others that were flagged for other reasons.
The issue was raised in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Georgia college student who claimed that the secretary of state's voter verification system violated the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act and caused an illegal purge of voters in the weeks before the election.
Federal law prohibits widespread voter purges within 90 days of the election. In Georgia, that has become a heated issue with some calling the purge "voter suppression.""
Original Blog Entry
College senior Kyla Berry was looking forward to voting in her first presidential election, even carrying her voter registration card in her wallet.
But about two weeks ago, Berry got disturbing news from local election officials.
"This office has received notification from the state of Georgia indicating that you are not a citizen of the United States and therefore, not eligible to vote," a letter from the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections said.
But Berry is a U.S. citizen, born in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a passport and a birth certificate to prove it. Video Watch some of the concerns of voting experts »
The letter, which was dated October 2, gave her a week from the time it was dated to prove her citizenship. There was a problem, though -- the letter was postmarked October 9.
"It was the most bizarre thing. I immediately called my mother and asked her to send me my birth certificate, and then I was like, 'It's too late, apparently,' " Berry said.
Berry is one of more than 50,000 registered Georgia voters who have been "flagged" because of a computer mismatch in their personal identification information. At least 4,500 of those people are having their citizenship questioned and the burden is on them to prove eligibility to vote.
Experts say lists of people with mismatches are often systematically cut, or "purged," from voter rolls.
The article continues:
A lawsuit has been filed over Georgia's mismatch system, and the state is also under fire for requesting Social Security records for verification checks on about 2 million voters -- more requests than any other state.
One of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit says Georgia is violating a federal law that prohibits widespread voter purges within 90 days of the election, arguing that the letters were sent out too close to the election date.
The NY Times reports that "Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law." These states include: Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina.
The article continues "The six swing states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote.
Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.
In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action."
Brad Friedman at The Brad Blog has more.