Department of Justice spikes voter citizenship checks again

ATLANTA - The U.S. Department of Justice has for the second time rejected Georgia's system of using Social Security numbers and driver's license data to check whether prospective voters are citizens.

The Justice Department first rejected Georgia's request for preclearance for the checks in May. The state asked the department in August to reconsider that rejection.

In a letter sent to Georgia Deputy Attorney General Dennis Dunn on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez said the state's August request contains so many changes to the original voter registration verification process that it constitutes 'a new change affecting voting that the state desires to implement.'

'I remain unable to conclude that the State of Georgia has carried its burden of showing that the original voter registration verification program has neither a discriminatory purpose nor a discriminatory effect,' Perez wrote.

He also provided a list of additional information Georgia would need to provide for the Justice Department to consider the state's changes to the system. Matt Carrothers, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, said Friday that Georgia provided all of that information with its August request.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, Georgia and other states with a history of discriminatory voting practices must preclear any changes to election rules with the Justice Department.

'For nearly a year, our office and the Office of the Attorney General have worked in good faith with the Department of Justice to address their questions and issues,' Handel said in a statement Friday. 'Throughout this entire process, DOJ did not raise a single question, comment or concern with our reconsideration submission until Tuesday.

Handel said she would discuss the state's options with Gov. Sonny Perdue and state Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

The state's voter verification system checks new voters against information in databases held by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration, Handel's office said.

After a challenge was filed by voting rights groups last October, a federal three-judge panel did not order Georgia to immediately stop the checks but ordered the state to seek Justice Department preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.