WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 22, more than 25 Georgia-based voting rights organizations signed an open letter calling for the mayor of Atlanta Andre Dickens (D) and the Democrat-controlled Atlanta City Council to reconsider using signature matching in the city’s process for verifying the petitions for a city ballot initiative referendum about the building of the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, popularly known as “Cop City.”
The criticism comes after the city announced its plan on Monday to verify the petitions’ signatures by comparing each signature on the petition to the corresponding signature on the state’s voter roll. The Stop Cop City Vote Coalition has purportedly gathered more than the necessary amount of signatures to get the referendum on the ballot for the November 2023 election. However, the coalition decided to change plans and hold off submitting the signatures after the city announced its planned verification process.
Why? Signature matching is a notoriously fickle practice that, as Fair Fight argued on Monday, “disproportionately impacts voters of color, and is biased against disabled and elderly voters.” Republicans interested in restricting access to the ballot have pushed the practice more and more in recent years, from Florida to, most recently, North Carolina.
Georgians have already been disenfranchised by the discriminatory signature matching practice. As the open letter points out, “In 2018, a federal judge struck down the process without notice to voters, saying in Georgia Muslim Voter v. Kemp that ‘there is simply no guarantee that such voters’ signatures might match on a second absentee ballot or absentee ballot application.” According to Mother Jones, the city has not responded to the concerns.