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Records show Decatur did not initiate removal of voters who listed treatment facility as residence

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Records show Decatur did not initiate removal of voters who listed treatment facility as residence

Decatur City Hall
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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, according to Decaturish content partner WABE. The board said the voters’ eligibility had been challenged by the city of Decatur.

The Board of Elections removed seven voters as a result.

Records provided by the city and interviews with people involved in the story show that the city of Decatur made no such challenge.

The ACLU of Georgia and other voting rights groups are fighting the removal of these voters. Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, told Decaturish his organization believes Decatur didn’t challenge the rights of these voters.

“First, the board minutes from August said these voters were removed at the request of the city of Decatur,” Young said. “Then when we pushed them on it, it was revealed it was an employee of the DeKalb Board that claims she owns the property and it’s non residents [living there].”

When asked about the matter last week, City Manager Andrea Arnold provided several pieces of correspondence showing that the city didn’t initiate this.

“The bottom line is that the city of Decatur did not challenge the voters’ eligibility,” Arnold said.

According to Arnold, the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Office in May 2019 asked the city clerk to verify registered voters and a list of streets in the city limits. After city staff reviewed this information, city staff returned the files on June 26 to County Election Coordinator Deborah Christian. The city clerk did not challenge any of the voter registrations.

“The City Clerk notified DCVRE that 444 Sycamore Drive, which was included on the DCVRE municipal streets file, does not appear in the city’s property database nor does it appear in the county’s property database,” Arnold said.

Election Coordinator Glenda Woods telephoned the city clerk regarding 444 Sycamore Drive.

“In her research Ms. Woods determined that 444 Sycamore Drive was owned by one of her colleagues, Administrative Coordinator Mary Frances Weeks, and that the legal address of the property was 207 Springdale Avenue,” Arnold said. “Ms. Woods informed the city that DCVRE would take care of notifying the voters with a 444 Sycamore Drive address about the address discrepancy.”

Arnold said it was the city’s flagging of this street that caused the county to initiate the challenge of voter registrations.

In a letter to a reporter for the AJC, Arnold said, “We were shocked to read the minutes that were provided with a letter from the ACLU to DeKalb County showing the city of Decatur as the entity challenging the voter registrations at 444 Sycamore Drive.” The city also asked the county to clarify that the city didn’t do this.

Weeks sent a letter to Young and John Powers of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law to clarify what happened. She confirmed that she owns the property.

“The initial reason for the challenge was because the city of Decatur could not identify 444 Sycamore as a legitimate address,” Weeks said. “Our Elections Coordinator in charge of mapping asked me to help her write a letter, and I recognized the address. There is no 444 Sycamore Drive, as the ‘legal address’ is 207 Springdale Street; however, the driveway is at 444 Sycamore and is easier for the clients to locate it using the Sycamore address. Obviously, I was aware that no one resides there. If you need us to have the director confirm that there is no one living there, we will be happy to do so.”

In an interview with Decaturish, Weeks said the complaint is overblown. She said residents at the Peer Support and Wellness Center can only stay there up to seven nights.

“All city of Decatur did was say we can’t identify this address,” Weeks said. “It’s much ado about nothing.”

Young said the ACLU and voting rights advocates are taking the voter purges seriously. He said even the disenfranchisement of one voter is one too many.

“The reason we’re focusing on this is because there’s a larger historical pattern of people making up ways to cancel voters registrations, and elections officials are supposed to be on the front lines defending our democracy from these pernicious and baseless attacks,” Young said. “And here they failed to do so.”

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