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Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Mr. Blau’s recent article poses several speculative queries for which the New Georgia Project provided substantive and full responses. We are disappointed that he has relied so heavily on anonymous sources and inaccurate assumptions, as well as leaving out clear, responsive answers to his queries. Rep. Abrams has maintained careful distinctions between her nonprofit efforts and her political activities for more than fifteen years, and she has refused to conflate them to satisfy spurious allegations. Mr. Blau unfortunately mischaracterizes her work and its effects. He also demands a transparency that has been provided, is forthcoming or is unlawful.

What we offer below is the full response submitted to him on January 26, 2015, which we respectfully ask that you post in its entirety.

Statement Regarding the New Georgia Project from Nse Ufot, Executive Director:

I have dedicated my life to working on various civil, human, and workers rights issues; and returning home to Atlanta, as the New Georgia Project’s Executive Director, is both a personal and professional point of pride. The work of registering and engaging Georgia’s roughly 800,000 eligible, but unregistered African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans is an essential part of a long-term plan to improve our state and have everyone’s voices heard.

2014 was just a start. I am excited to continue working with our partners to improve the civic engagement of underrepresented and growing groups in our state. This will not be easy work, but it is worth the effort.

As we continue to develop our future plans, our core mission will focus be to register and engage the hundreds of thousands of unregistered African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans in the state, while maintaining a dialogue with the citizens we registered last year.

Registration Efforts:

The New Georgia Project’s field team submitted 86,419 voter registration applications. The Secretary of State’s office has recently released the election’s voter file, which we are in the process of analyzing. GA ADC 183-1-6.02 is the applicable provision that explains the rules governing voter registration by private entities. Section 9(c) sets forth strict rules on handling the applications, to wit, applications may only be disclosed to another affiliated private entity as necessary to verify the timely and proper receipt and processing of the application. Section 2(b) provides that private entity is strictly defined as an individual or organization that uses individuals other than registrars or deputy registrars to conduct voter registration programs. Section 9(c) further provides that the applications must be destroyed within 90 days. For your convenience, we are attaching the relevant legal information.

Fundraising:

We will complete our 990 for the 2014 fiscal year later this year, which will detail total funds raised and will disclose all required information regarding expenditures. This information will be publicly available at that time. NGP is a nonpartisan effort focused on registering and engaging the hundreds of thousands of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans in Georgia, which is a long term effort to improve the civic health of our state. We partner exclusively with other nonpartisan groups in-state and nationally to do our work.

Third Sector Development:

Between 2008 and 2012, Third Sector Development was only required to submit a 990N form because total annual revenue was $25,000 or below. The 990 for 2013 has been submitted for processing by the IRS, and it will be made available upon final review and acceptance. Previous efforts by the organization have focused on disadvantaged communities, primarily in the South, and on the delivery of technical assistance to organizations serving those communities.

New Georgia Project:

Stacey Abrams’ lifelong passion for serving underserved and underrepresented communities is why she launched the New Georgia Project. Rep. Abrams established the vision for the project and served as its primary fundraiser; however, the daily operations of the New Georgia Project’s voter registration efforts have been run from the beginning by professional, experienced staff and consultants. My role as Executive Director is to run the day-to-day operation, and I am thrilled to be able to do this work in my home state as the need to improve the civic engagement of communities of color in Georgia is critical and a personal passion of mine.

NGP partnered with several in-state groups, including the NAACP and others who undertake civic engagement activities. Our focus was conducting a large-scale project while collaborating with existing organizations to share research and resources. The voter registration efforts for NGP were launched in 2014. Over the course of 2014, the voter registration effort employed hundreds of workers who were deployed across the state. NGP followed best practices and the field team established a quality control process to obtain consent to collect personal information and handle that sensitive data. The processes were reviewed by both legal experts and by the Secretary of State’s office, receiving approval. We also had on-going discussions with county election officers and others, and it is our intent to continue to work cooperatively with the Secretary of State and county officials. For more information, the material from the briefing book is an overview of the in-depth verification and quality control processes that the field team had in place from the beginning of the drive.

NGP commissioned the Garin Hart Yang Group to conduct focus groups and polling of unregistered, eligible African American and Latino Georgians in the spring of 2014. The research deepened our understanding of why individuals were not registered and thus informed our outreach efforts; and our findings were shared with our partner organizations that were also conducting voter registration of people of color and other under-served groups in Georgia.

Mandamus Action:

The Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to enlist the private bar's leadership and resources in combating racial discrimination and the resulting inequality of opportunity.” This venerable organization led the legal work of the mandamus action based on its independent and thorough review of our voter registration efforts. The Lawyers Committee is a highly respected organization that has worked on civil and voting rights around the country, including in Georgia in 2008.

On Election Day, NGP partnered with the national nonpartisan voter protection hotline 866-OURVOTE, which is a project of the Lawyers’ Committee. We shared the 866-OURVOTE hotline information widely with applicants in case of problems on Election Day. Georgia was one of the top three states with calls into the hotline that day.

(See http://www.866ourvote.org/ and http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/newsroom/press_releases?id=0531)

The Lawyers’ Committee and others are looking into Election Day issues.

Electoral Results:

NGP submitted over 86,000 applications from across the state, from a growing and underrepresented community, primarily African American. The scale of the effort exceeded most contemporary voter drives in Georgia. Voter registration of the estimated 800,000+ unregistered Georgians of color is a long-term effort, and our work is focused on the most difficult-to-register communities. Minorities are much more likely than whites to register in a drive, which precipitated our large-scale, statewide effort and will inform our future activities. We are currently analyzing the results from last year, and we will use this data to inform and improve our work.

In its report on the challenges of running voter registration drives across the country, “State Restrictions on Voter Registration Drives”, the Brennan Center shares research about the importance of drives for registering racial and ethnic minorities (see endnote 21),

http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/publications/State%20Restrictions%20on%20Voter%20Registration%20Drives.pdf

  • In 2004, while 7.4% of non-Hispanic whites registered with private voter registration drives, 12.7% of Blacks and 12.9% of Hispanics did the same.
  • In 2008, African Americans and Hispanics nationally remained almost twice as likely to register through a voter registration drive as whites. While 5% of non-Hispanic whites registered at private voter registration drives, 11.1% of African-Americans and 9.6% of Hispanics did the same.
  • In the most recent year for which data is available, the 2010 election, 4.4% of non-Hispanic whites registered at private drives, as compared to 7.2% of African-Americans and 8.9% of Hispanics.

Rep. Abrams' Political Efforts

Rep. Abrams has filed the requisite disclosure reports related to political activities. Georgia NEXT is not related to the New Georgia Project.

The New Georgia Project has no involvement with any political activities or political organizations.