Local TV station WALB 10 in Georgia recently ran a story which advised its viewers to shred voter registration forms that they did not receive from the state or local government. However, instead of explaining that many of these forms are specifically sanctioned by the Secretary of State's office and that these types of voter registration drives have laws which protect them, WALB struck a foreboding tone about the practices of third party registration organizations. From WALB:
With elections only a month a way [sic], election officials in Georgia are keeping an eye out for fraudulent registration information.
And some Georgians are getting voter forms in the mail that are not from the state.
This is what the Georgia voter registration form looks like, but a form very similar is being sent to some voters and it is not from the state.
Officials say if you get a form not from the state, they recommend you shred it immediately.
Officials say there is more voter registration fraud in presidential election years.
The company sending the registration forms is not violating any law, but if you fill out that form, it is going somewhere besides the state.
Unfortunately, WALB is not providing a true picture of the voter registration laws in Georgia. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Georgia has a system which allows "anyone to circulate state voter registration forms without being certified" and that even those who aren't registered with the state can distribute and collect registration forms. In fact, the Secretary of State's office has an entire section of their website devoted to third party registration organizations, including a "Rules & Procedures" manual and rules sheet. Included on the site are the specific laws which govern third party voter registration initiatives and explain that the state should not "prevent private entities from conducting organized voter registration programs."
Indeed, as Page Gardner, Founder and CEO of The Voter Participation Center, explained, these forms were approved by the Georgia Secretary of States Office and even use the Georgia voter registration form. Despite the way in which WALB framed it, these applications are legitimate and attempts to diminish the role of third party voter registration drives only hurt the ability of qualified voters to become registered.
UPDATE: WALB later clarified their story.