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Thousands of registered voters in Northwest Georgia are at risk of being removed from the state's voter registry due to inaction with Georgia's election system over the past five years.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who faces a serious battle come election time, issued a notice to more than 185,600 registered voters in the state that they could be removed from the registry.

"Accurate voter lists are fundamental to election integrity," Raffensperger said in a statement. "They ensure ineligible people cannot vote, allow counties to effectively allocate resources so there are no long lines, and help make sure voters get accurate information about casting their ballot."

Raffensperger's office did something similar in 2019. In December of that year, the state purged more than 300,000 voters from the registry.

A 1993 federal law requires states maintain their voter registration lists. Georgia is one of nine states that cancel the registrations of people who have not had contact with the registration system for a period of time and have not responded to mail sent to their last known address asking for confirmation.

According to the Secretary of State's Office, thousands of voters in Northwest Georgia could be taken off the rolls. The breakdown per county is:

— Dade: 529

— Walker: 1,302

— Catoosa: 1,253

— Murray: 578

— Whitfield: 1,705

— Chattooga: 393

Election officials and registrars in each county will mail notices to the address associated with each registered voter. Residents have 30 days to respond to the notice to stay on the voter rolls.

Voters found to have had "no contact" with the Secretary of State's Office have not voted, requested an absentee ballot, signed a petition, changed their address or renewed their driver's licenses.

Voters who stay inactive for two more election cycles will be mailed another notice asking them to confirm their registration. Inactive voters who do not respond to the second notice will have their registration canceled.

Raffensperger and his office said that, most likely, inactive voters leave Georgia and don't notify the state that they did so.

Georgia AFL-CIO, a voting rights organization, cited Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight Action and reported that 45% of the 185,600 mailers were sent to Black voters.

In the last legislative session following the 2020 election, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed an overhaul of election rules in Georgia. The bill has been blasted by Democrats and others who say it creates unnecessary obstacles to voting, particularly for people of color.

The Georgia law requires a photo ID in order to vote absentee by mail, after more than 1.3 million Georgia voters used that option during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed. Georgia residents can check their voter registration status by visiting mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do.

Fair Fight has created its own digital tool at georgiavotersearch.com for residents to check if they are among those at risk of being removed from the list.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com.

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