The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court on Friday, challenging Wednesday’s Fulton County Superior Court ruling that Maria Palacios of Gainesville is not eligible to run for a state House of Representatives seat.
Palacios is seeking to represent District 29 in the state House. She was disqualified from the race in May when the Secretary of State’s office ruled she could not be a candidate because she had not been a Georgia citizen long enough.
Palacios was born in Mexico, then immigrated to the United States when she was 2 months old. Her family moved to Gainesville in 1994. She became a permanent legal resident of the state in 2009 and a U.S. citizen in 2017.
In Georgia, candidates eligible for the House of Representatives must be Georgia citizens for two years at the time of their election. Palacios’ case focuses on what it means to be a Georgia “citizen,” a term the Secretary of State’s office and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall have interpreted differently than Palacios and her legal representation, Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia.
Schwall ruled in an Atlanta courtroom Wednesday that Palacios did not meet the citizenship requirements to run for the state House. In order to be a citizen, and not just a resident of Georgia, someone has to also be a U.S. citizen, he said.
Young disagrees, arguing that Palacios has been a Georgia citizen for years.
The statute specifying requirements for running for state office requires candidates to be both citizens of the United States and of Georgia. Young says that the separate clause requiring candidates to be U.S. citizens would not be necessary if U.S. citizenship was required for Georgia citizenship.
Young said in a statement issued Friday that the ruling prohibiting Palacios from running for the state House was an overreaching interpretation of the state constitution.
“Georgia voters are entitled to have the opportunity to vote for any constitutionally qualified candidate,” he said. “The secretary of state is obligated to uphold the Georgia Constitution instead of adding provisions to it.”
The ACLU of Georgia is asking the state Supreme Court to resolve the case by Labor Day or no later than Election Day, Nov. 6. If that timeline cannot be met, the ACLU is asking the court to stay the November election for the District 29 seat.
Palacios is the only Democrat seeking the seat, held by Republican incumbent Matt Dubnik. Independent Nancy Stead also has qualified for the ballot.