Is Georgia trying to keep new citizens from voting?

Frustrated new citizen tells her story

Atlanta Journal-Contstitution
5:34 p.m. Thursday, September 9, 2010

It shouldn’t be so hard for a new citizen to vote in Georgia

I am one of the 4,200 Georgians who received a letter from the Georgia secretary of state indicating that my registration to vote had been challenged prior to this year’s primary voting.

I registered to vote at my local library on May 19, the day I was sworn in as a new citizen of the United States (after almost 15 years of being legally in this country). I am originally from Austria and came to Georgia to receive my doctorate from the University of Georgia.

Voting is a very important civic duty to me, and I had been waiting a long time to be able to cast my vote in this country.

I presented my certificate of naturalization during the registration process as proof of my citizenship. Regardless of that fact, I received a letter a couple of weeks later stating that my citizenship was challenged because my driver’s license and Social Security records indicated that I was a non-citizen.

One would think that presenting an original certificate of naturalization (and a valid driver’s license) while registering to vote in person should be enough proof, given that driver’s licenses (and Social Security cards) can be several years old and, like me, one may not have been a citizen the last time a driver’s license was renewed.

Nevertheless, I went to the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration to “clear” my name. I obtained a new driver’s license to update that database, and I further obtained a new Social Security card that reflected my new status as a U.S. citizen. All of this was done a few days after receiving the letter from the secretary of state and about one week before the July 20 primary.

Despite these efforts, the computer in my precinct still flagged me as “challenged” on the day of the primary, and I was told that I could only cast a “challenged ballot.”

Knowing that I had done everything humanly possible to prove the legitimacy of my vote, I insisted on having my name cleared and be able to cast a regular ballot. The very helpful staff at my precinct called the Cobb County Board of Elections and verified my account, which finally did allow me to cast an “unchallenged” vote.

In my opinion this process is cumbersome, undignified and prone to errors. I can’t help but think that this process is intended to keep new citizens (especially in Republican-leaning states) away from the polls since we tend to overwhelmingly lean Democratic.

I am in favor of having to prove my citizenship in order to vote, but presenting an original certificate of naturalization in person should be sufficient and should carry more weight than an outdated driver’s license database.

I challenge Secretary of State Brian Kemp to release his findings of how many of the 4,200 Georgians whose citizenship was challenged truly attempted to cast a vote illegally.

Herwig Goldemund, an environmental consultant, lives in Marietta.

Found here: