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VERIFY: Yes, Georgia law requires verification of new voters

Voter registration is a county function

ATLANTA — The Georgia Secretary of State's office is cracking down ahead of Jan. 5, investigating claims of third party groups trying to register out-of-state voters for the Senate runoff. 

As a result, 11Alive viewer Dalton had a question: What steps are taken to verify voters are residents? 


The 2002 Help America Vote Act

The Official Code of Georgia

Georgia's Secretary of State's Office

11Alive legal analyst Page Pate 


To start, the Help America Vote Act was signed into law in 2002 by President Georgia H. Bush. One of its requirements mandated states verify information on a new voter's application before they're added to the voter roll. 

In Georgia, state law is clear: voters must be a resident of Georgia and of the county or municipality where they plan to vote. 

RELATED: Verify: Fact checking claims made in political ads and online against Georgia Senate runoff candidates

Let's break it down further, where the law establishes voter registration as a county function. Counties subsequently issue precinct cards after reviewing and processing applications.  

Election officials allow voters multiple ways to register in Georgia including by mail and online. However, Georgia's Secretary of State's office tells 11Alive the majority of new voters are people are using the new option to register when renewing or applying for their driver's license. 

Because of Georgia's 'real id' requirements to get a license, these applicants provide proof of identification like a passport plus their Social Security card and two documents proving Georgia residency.

According to Georgia law, completed voter applications go to the county where ID and residency requirements are reviewed. Officials can also challenge an application and hold a hearing if needed.

"They would look at – did they get a new driver's license? Did they sign a lease or buy a new house here...are they looking for work do they have a new job?" lawyer Page Pate said. "That's going to be a pretty involved process. But I  think that's how the Secretary of State's office would determine the true intent of somebody who moved to Georgia in time to vote in the runoff."

With these sources, we can verify Dalton's question that it's true that federal and Georgia law requires new voters to be verified before they're allowed to vote, which includes checking residency. 

Secretary of State Brad Raffensgerger warns that 'false registration' can be punishable with up to ten years in prison, and/or up to a $100,000 fine.

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