Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day and it is a celebration of democracy for twenty-four hours. As individuals make plans to vote, check and update their registration statuses, current Secretary of State (Georgia’s top election official) Brad Raffensperger says Georgia is number one for election integrity in America.

“Voter registration is the first step in becoming an engaged and involved member of your community,” said Secretary Brad Raffensperger in a statement. “National Voter Registration Day is an important opportunity for elections officials to communicate with the public and to raise awareness of the ease of registration in Georgia.”

This year, all statewide offices are on the ballot as Georgians will vote for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, State School Superintendent, Labor Commissioner, as well as all 236 seats in the Georgia State Legislature (180 in the House, 56 in the Senate).

Raffensperger was recently profiled in Time Magazine as one of “the defenders of American elections,” for his efforts in standing up to former President Donald J. Trump when he said to Raffensperger upon losing Georgia in the 2020 Presidential Election:

“So look. All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Notably, Joining Raffensperger on the cover are Adrian Fontes of Arizona and Jocelyn Benson of Michigan.

Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen, center, celebrates Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Atlanta, after winning a runoff election to be the Democratic candidate for Georgia Secretary of State. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Current Georgia State Representative, Bee Nguyen, discussed the ways Raffensperger is not the proponent of election integrity that he purports himself to be; but a person who has made it harder for Blacks, ethnic minorities, and people who reside in working-class communities to vote.

“On National Voter Registration Day, as Georgians across the state are registering and preparing to cast a ballot this November, they deserve to know that Brad Raffensperger is trying to make it harder for them to do so,” said Bee Nguyen, Democratic nominee for Secretary of State. 

Nguyen is referencing Senate Bill 202 which placed restrictions on handing out food and water at polling places under the guise of politicking. 

The Georgia electorate has become more and more diverse in the last ten years. According to Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica, the number of registered voters increased by 2 million since 2013, with a majority of the gains coming from Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs and exurbs. In contrast, the number of polling locations decreased statewide by 10%, according to NPR.

Additionally, Georgia residents are automatically registered to vote when they get drivers licenses. Nguyen says Raffensperger is against the idea. 

“It’s simple: Brad Raffensperger opposes automatic voter registration – a clear win for both voting rights and election security – because he doesn’t want all Georgians to vote,” Nguyen continued. “Georgians deserve a Secretary of State who isn’t actively working to keep them away from the ballot box.”

Georgia is one of 22 states with automatic registration through driver’s license offices.

A ream of Georgia voter stickers is laid out at the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections on Saturday, May 28, 2022 in Decatur, Georgia. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Nguyen and Georgia Democrats are pushing the benefits of early voting, which begins October 17th. Recently, the Stacey Abrams campaign has told their supporters to vote early and avoid long lines on Election Day. Also, the new election laws have expanded early voting while slapping restrictions elsewhere.

In order to register to vote in Georgia, a person must meet the following five requirements

  • Be a United States citizen.
  • Be a resident of Georgia and live in the county and voting precinct where you will vote.
  • Eligible to register to vote when someone is 17.5 years old, but must be 18 years old by Election Day to vote.
  • If a person has been convicted of a felony you must be “Off Paper” to register. “Off Paper” means that you’ve completed your sentence (including incarceration, probation, parole, and any period on non-report status).  
  • If a person has been declared mentally incompetent by a judge, you cannot register to vote in Georgia.

It should be easy enough. Yet, Raffensperger announced in May that the Secretary of State’s office will review the citizenship status of all voter-registration applicants tagged as potential noncitizens by the Georgia Department of Driver Services in the name of “election integrity.”

The flagged applicants screened by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE database as part of the routine process of voter registration.

“This is a win for election security and integrity in Georgia,” Raffensperger said. “We are making it clear that if noncitizens attempt to register to vote, we will stop them before they get on the voter rolls, we will investigate, and we will prosecute. I have committed to ensuring Georgia’s voting lists remain accurate, and this new step will be an important piece of that effort.”

Attempted registration by noncitizens is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. It bears repeating, only United States citizens and Georgia residents are allowed to vote in the Peach State.

As the clock ticks down toward November 8th, there are currently 7,004,034 active and registered voters in the state of Georgia as of December 2021 according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. With the Governor’s race as well as the Senate race between incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, the down-ballot races will be largely affected by turnout. 

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...