ATLANTA — A federal lawsuit seeks an extension of the voter registration deadline in Georgia’s six coastal counties because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Monday asking a judge to extend the voter registration deadline in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties by six days from a court order. It alleges that by declining to extend the deadline, the state is violating the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
“The state’s failure to extend the voter registration deadline, despite the massive disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew, means that thousands of Georgians will be prevented from participating in the November election. This is unethical and illegal,” ACLU attorney Kathleen Burch said in a news release.
The governor on Oct. 6 issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents who live east of Interstate 95 and voluntary evacuation orders for other residents of the six coastal counties. Those counties were hit hard by the hurricane and suffered downed trees, structural damage and power outages, which prevented people from registering even if they were able to return home by the Oct. 11 voter registration deadline, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that young and minority voters generally register at a disproportionately higher rate during the final days of the registration period.
The suit comes on the heels of a similar suit filed last week that resulted in the extension to Oct. 18 of the voter registration deadline in Chatham County because of the storm. The new suit has been assigned to the same judge and he has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday morning.
The office of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official, has insisted that people had ample opportunity to register to vote.
“These liberal groups need to stop trying to change the rules so late in the game and let county officials move forward with early voting and issuing absentee ballots, both of which are already ongoing,” Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said in an email. “We were paying close attention to the situation on the coast with Hurricane Matthew, but changing deadlines so close to the election is a bad idea and makes an orderly election more difficult.”