The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), with pro bono co-counsel Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, has intervened in Georgia v. Holder, a lawsuit to approve the State of Georgia’s new voter verification procedures. The matter is pending in federal court in Washington, DC.
The lawsuit was filed on June 22, 2010 by the State of Georgia against the U.S. Department of Justice. It seeks to overturn an objection by the Department that the State’s voter registration procedures are flawed and discriminatory. Georgia also asks the court to declare unconstitu-tional the enforcement provision (Section 5) of the Voting Rights Act.
“The Voting Rights Act has provided Asian Americans with greater access to the electoral franchise. The lawsuit seeks to strip away vital protections for minority voters,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, AALDEF Democracy Program Director.
Because Georgia has a history of voting discrimination against racial minorities, any changes to the voting process must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice or U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before they can go into effect. The State must prove that the new procedures do not discriminate against minority voters.
The intervention was filed on behalf of Marvin Lim, a naturalized citizen in Georgia who registered to vote but was told just days before the 2008 election that he could not vote, the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Georgia Chapter, and the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center (AALAC) of Georgia. The parties intervened on the side of the defendants, represented by the Department of Justice.
Norman Chu, President of OCA Georgia Chapter said, “OCA encourages the involvement of Asian Americans in the electoral franchise and has conducted voter registration drives. Our members will be in a worse position to exercise their right to vote and to register to vote if Georgia’s voter verification procedures are precleared.”
Marvin Lim said, “I am a citizen and registered to vote, but I had to jump through many hoops to vote. I tried to convince state lawmakers that the procedures are unfair to many Asian Americans – even those who produce documentation, such as myself. They have not listened, so I am speaking out today to protect democracy.”
Helen Kim Ho, Executive Director of AALAC said, “AALAC firmly supports policies that promote equal access to voting. The verification system has hampered tens of thousands of US citizens from exercising their right to vote. Asian American citizens were twice as likely to be flagged as white voter registrants. The system is flawed and has a disproportionately negative impact on Asian American citizens in Georgia.”
AALDEF and the Asian American intervenors joined other intervenors, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which is representing the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Voting Rights Project and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which are representing the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, Georgia NAACP, and Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda.