Early voters arrive at a polling station in Athens, Georgia, U.S., October 26, 2018 ahead of the midterm elections. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday ordered Georgia to allow some 3,000 recently naturalized U.S. citizens to vote in elections next week after their voting registrations were put on hold, according to a ruling filed in federal court in Atlanta.
The issue of voter suppression has been central to the governor’s race in Georgia where Republican candidate Brian Kemp serves as secretary of state, the office that oversees the voter rolls.
Civil rights groups sued Kemp in October over 50,000 voting registration applications that were placed on hold due to Georgia’s “exact-match” law which requires personal information on voter applications to match state databases.
Friday’s ruling required Kemp to allow 3,000 of those people, whose voting registration was placed in “pending” status due to questions about their U.S. citizenship, to vote in the Nov. 6 U.S. midterm election if they present proof of citizenship at the polls.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross is a “minor change” to the current system, said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Kemp, in a statement. Civil rights groups celebrated the ruling as a major victory.
“With respect to Tuesday’s election, we deem this a total victory in our fight against Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s exact match scheme,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The ruling also required Kemp to direct all county election officials on how to verify proof of citizenship; to order county election boards to post a list of acceptable documentation for proving citizenship; and to update a section on his website containing information for pending voters.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Julia Harte, and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and David Gregorio