Secretary of State visits Albany

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga.-- While meeting with officials throughout Southwest Georgia Tuesday, Secretary of State Brian Kemp brought with him the message that one of the first things needing to be done is to enforce regulations in voter verification.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain states and jurisdictions, including Georgia, to obtain permission from the federal government prior to enforcing any change affecting a practice or procedure with respect to voting.

The state may seek "preclearance" of a change affecting voting by filing suit in the U.S. District for the District of Columbia or by submitting the change to the Department of Justice. Georgia implemented the voter verification process in April 2007 at the direction of the Justice Department in order to comply with requirements in the federal Help America Vote Act.

After the DOJ prevented further use of the process, Kemp said he asked Attorney General Thurbert Baker to bring a similar declaratory judgment action for preclearance of Senate Bill 86, signed into law in May 2009. Baker decided not to file suit.

"He said that is not the way to go," the secretary said. "Most Georgians think we should be verifying certain information to register to vote."

Senate Bill 86 requires those registering to vote to submit one of several forms of proof of United States citizenship with their application. Applicants may use a driver's license number, birth certificate, U.S. passport, U.S. naturalization documents or alien registration number, Bureau of Indian Affairs card as well as other documents. It was modeled after a similar law in Arizona, which has already received Section 5 preclearance.

In his meeting with The Albany Herald Editorial Board, Kemp said his staff is finding evidence of non-citizens registering to vote and possibly voting.

"This is something that needs to be (resolved)," he said.

Kemp was picked by Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as interim secretary of state earlier in the year after Karen Handel resigned to focus on her pursuit of the governor's office. Doug MacGinnitie is also in the race for secretary of state.

As a small business owner and former state senator, Kemp said he is putting himself in the running to make sure there is an "all hands" approach to government in place.

"I'm running to ensure we have fair and safe elections," he said. "I believe we need a government that does what it promises."

The secretary of state said he also believes that businesses should be taking less time dealing with bureaucratic red tape. A link has been created on his office's Web site where citizens and business owners can leave suggestions as to how to reduce government bureaucracy and red tape.

So far, the suggestions have shown promise.

"We've got a lot of interesting things we are implementing," Kemp said.

The secretary of state is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations and the regulation of securities and professional license holders.