Voting Rights Watch: Rep. Lewis calls voter checks 'harassment'

Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia stepped into the controversy over states' use of Social Security Administration voter registration checks yesterday, calling improper use of the checks "harassment" that could disenfranchise voters.

As Facing South reported yesterday, Georgia has been the most zealous in applying the checks, submitting nearly 2 million since October 2007. Under federal law, the checks are intended to be used for verifying new voter registrations, yet only 406,000 new voters have signed up in Georgia this year.

Lewis, a civil rights veteran, said in a statement that Georgia's actions may not only be an improper application of the check process, but is a possible violation of the Voting Rights Act:

I think there is a deliberate, systematic effort to depress the turn out of African American, Latino and other minority voters on November 4th. This is harassment. It is intimidation, and it places an undue burden on some citizens. Who decides, based on what standards which 2 million voters deserve greater scrutiny than any others? I think these actions violate both the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. They should be pursued by voting rights groups and the Department of Justice with all deliberate speed so we can make the way clear for registered voters to freely exercise their constitutional rights.

Georgia is one of nine states covered by the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, in which the Department of Justice must review "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting."