The voting eligibility of tens of thousands of Georgia voters is being challenged ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm election, with Cobb County and Chatham County election officials recently rebuffing attempts to remove people from registrar records.
On Monday, electoral officials in the Atlanta suburbs and the Savannah community rejected more than 1,500 eligibility challenges filed against registered voters. The mass voter lawsuits typically filed by Republicans emerged in the weeks following the 2020 presidential election, which saw former President Donald Trump’s defeat of Democrat Joe Biden include losses in swing states like Georgia and Michigan. Ahead of Georgia’s January 2021 Senate runoff, right-wing group True the Vote has compiled a list of 364,000 voters to challenge.
Marietta resident Eugene Williams was one of the residents questioning the status of 1,350 Cobb voters without an identifiable address on Monday.
“I think it really begs the question, do these people even necessarily exist, you don’t know,” Williams said. “Anything you send them will come back undeliverable.”
Williams and others who advanced the challenges in Cobb presented no concrete evidence of illegal voting when they attempted to use Georgia law to erase what they described as inaccurate voter rolls. The state is controversial choice revision includes a provision allowing any Georgia voter to challenge an unlimited number of other voters in their county.
Across Georgia, advocacy group VoterGA and some residents have filed lawsuits against thousands of registered voters, most of whom claim they are failing to comply with voting eligibility laws due to incomplete mailing addresses such as missing apartment numbers and PO boxes.
According to the League of Women Voters, of the 25,500 challenges submitted by VoterGA, only 1,800 resulted in registration cancellations.
A purge attempt by the Gwinnett County Board of Elections resulted in the board rejecting most challenges in the upcoming Nov. 8 election and contesting votes beginning in 2020, though hundreds of registrations are still under review.
Cobb Election Committee Chair Tori Silar said Monday’s vote will keep voters on the lists and allow poll workers to continue with preparations for the upcoming election.
The requests are seen by critics as attempts to disenfranchise people of color and college students.
The three-week early voting period begins Monday, October 17 for midterm elections that are expected to see strong turnout put Georgia’s new electoral system to the test, with contests on the ballot for a US Senate, Governor, Congress, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor and Legislature of Georgia. Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in time for the midterm elections on November 8th.
On Monday, the Cobb board dismissed voter registration challenges for lack of probable cause, with claims based on missing apartment numbers and dorm names at Kennesaw State University.
Silar said the lack of individual challenges rather than grievances that mass challenges bring poses problems for the board, which has been pushing for a decision with an election in just weeks. After leaving college, she moved into a complex with no specific apartment numbers, which would have put her in danger of not being able to vote in these blanket challenges.
The board voted 4-1 to dismiss the appeals, with Pat Garland, who was appointed by the Republican Party, casting the only no vote.
“The board is under no obligation to make an individual request,” Silar said. “We have to judge each challenge on their (merits), but I don’t know if I can assume that there aren’t any apartment numbers at 1000 Chastain Road.”
Caitlin May, voting rights attorney for the ACLU of Georgia, said voters should not be flagged for verification or removed from lists by violating state and federal laws, which include the National Voter Registration Act, which requires the systematic removal of voters prohibits 90 days of voting.
“Barebones challenges to voters immediately before an election places an undue burden on voters,” May said at Monday’s rally.
The logs are most commonly used when someone knows that, for example, a neighbor has moved, which is a big difference between this targeted challenge and being presented with a long list of empty apartment or dorm numbers, May said.
“That means that in order to meet these challenges today, the board must determine that any voter by more than mere suspicion is disqualified from voting in Cobb County,” she said. “You would need some individual evidence for each voter who is asked to do so.”
And in Cobb, resident Debbie Fisher on Monday dismissed allegations that the challenges in her attempts to disenfranchise voters were malicious.
“I just want to bring to light, since we have a lot of people here who are opposed to the voters’ rolls being cleaned up, that nobody I know has ever submitted a name to be removed from the lists because it’s malicious.” , she said. “That’s because we have a duty to clean up those reels.”
But an organization leading the fight against the mass challenges, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, noted that any voter who is delisted is unlikely to be notified until Tuesday’s voter registration deadline, and if so, will be notified , would not be able to cast a vote in a runoff election in December, which recent polls suggest is likely.
Eligibility challenges were heard in several counties across the state, including Gwinnett County, which dismissed all of its challenges on October 3.
Savannah TV station WTOC reported Monday that Chatham County Election Committee Chairman Colin McRae asked some residents to verify their addresses before casting their ballots.
To resolve the issues, the registry office will send out notices, he said.
“Those people who have incomplete address information will have to provide it in order to vote and there are very few of these, but they would have received notices at their postal address asking that we need your residential address information. ‘ McRae said.