ACLU, others urge DeKalb County to change voter removal process
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A coalition of voting rights groups says the way DeKalb County removes some people from voter rolls is unlawful.
In August the Board of Elections purged several voters because they listed a transitional treatment facility, The Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center, as their place of residence. The board said the voters’ eligibility had been challenged by the city of Decatur.
Sean Young with the ACLU of Georgia says under the law, only fellow residents can make an immediate challenge to a voter’s registration.
“The voter that is trying to challenge other voters need to step forward, file challenge in their own name and state publicly why their fellow voters should be removed from the rolls,” Young said.
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The agenda item for the Aug. 1 Board of Elections meeting said “the city of Decatur challenged those registered at 444 Sycamore Drive,” but in a letter Decatur’s city manager said it was the county that initiated the challenge.
In August, DeKalb County provided a letter written by Mary Frances Weeks, the retiring Administrative Coordinator for the Voter Registration and Elections office. In the letter, Weeks noted that she was the owner of the property in question and confirmed that there is “no one living there.” Weeks, however, was not mentioned in the Aug. 1 minutes in association with the challenge.
The ACLU of Georgia on behalf of several groups sent a letter Wednesday to DeKalb County urging the Board of Elections to adopt new policies. The county has not provided a response to the letter.
Regardless of who initiated the challenge, the ACLU and DeKalb remain at odds over whether a business address can be used to register to vote.
“Nowhere in the law does it require registered voters to live in a house,” Young said. “Residence can mean different things to different people. What DeKalb did was kind of emblematic of the kind of obliviousness that elections officials have to the day-to-day reality that many people living on the margins face.”
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The Georgia law covering residency for voting purposes reads, in part: “The residence of any person shall be held to be in that place in which such person’s habitation is fixed, without any present intention of removing therefrom.”
The Decatur Peer Support and Wellness Center allows individuals to stay up to three days per month.
In a statement given in August DeKalb’s Director of Voter Registration and Elections Erica Hamilton wrote that the facility is “not a place of residence.”
The voting rights groups, which include the ACLU of Georgia; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the New Georgia Project and the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, also cite federal law which mandates that voters removed from rolls be given two to four years notice.
“We’re hopeful that DeKalb County will do the right thing,” Young said. “But if they don’t follow our policies and procedures then all legal options are on the table.”
This story was provided by WABE.
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