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ACLU declines to act as deputy registrars for DeKalb County Elections Board

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ACLU declines to act as deputy registrars for DeKalb County Elections Board

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FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: A long line of voters gathered outside the Voter Registration and Elections Office on Oct. 12, the first day of early voting in the Nov. 3 elections. Photo by Dean Hesse


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This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA — The ACLU has confirmed to Decaturish that it will no longer provide assistance to the DeKalb County Elections Board for the Nov. 3 election.

The DeKalb County’s elections board voted 3-2 to accept additional help on Election Day, Nov. 3, allowing in-person voters to cancel their absentee ballots at the polls. Notably, the board’s Chair, Sam Tillman, voted against the plan.

Volunteers, attorneys recruited by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), offered to serve as deputy registrars at each polling place to ensure the proper cancellation of absentee ballots.

Christopher Bruce, Political Director with the ACLU of Georgia, said that’s no longer happening.

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“We never had an agreement with them and they were being difficult, so we said we’re not doing anything regarding our deputy registrars program,” Bruce said.

The DeKalb Elections Board did not return messages from Decaturish seeking comment. Erica Hamilton, director of voter registration and elections for DeKalb County, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution she was still hopeful that the two organizations could work together.

“While the board is disappointed that the ACLU won’t be assisting the county on Nov. 3, the lines of communication will be kept open and the ACLU is welcome to support DeKalb voters on Election Day,” Hamilton told the AJC through a spokesperson.

The difficulties working with the Elections Board have been an ongoing complaint in the run-up to the Nov. 3 elections. Volunteers and other organizations have said they have not been able to provide the board with the assistance it needs to conduct a successful election.

Indivisible GA 04, a voter advocacy group, has offered to relieve staff by bringing food and help with office tasks. Hamilton said no. Problems with the Elections Board also have frustrated DeKalb County Commissioners. Tillman has said the county has denied the board’s requests for extra help, but county commissioners say they have opened the county’s checkbook to provide the Elections Board with any assistance they require.

The dysfunction at the DeKalb Elections board could have national implications. As Decaturish columnist George Chidi noted yesterday, DeKalb County trends heavily Democratic and thousands of votes here could determine the outcome of U.S. Senate races in Georgia and, consequently, control of the U.S. Senate.

Lane Flynn with the county GOP said that the office hasn’t started reviewing absentee ballots ahead of time, even though the secretary of state’s office cleared them to start on the 19th. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said volunteers could begin reviewing ballots on Oct. 19, but DeKalb County began allowing reviews on Oct. 26.

The Vote Review Panel is staffed equally by Republican and Democrat volunteers who review absentee ballots that cannot be read by scanners.

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Flynn blames a lack of transparency and communication from the elections office for volunteers being unable to review votes. He said volunteers were sent home early, and removed from their responsibilities.

“We received no communication from the elections office about these changes or the reason for them,” Flynn said. “As of a week before Election Day, it is unknown to me whether or how many absentee ballots have been scanned, what if any process is in place for handling ballots that cannot be read by the scanners, who is processing any such ballots, or whether or when our volunteers will be permitted to review any such votes as required by law. As a result, I cannot say with any degree of confidence whether absentee ballot counting can be finished by Nov. 13, also as required by law.”

Hamilton said in her report at the Oct. 28 meeting, “As of last night the team let me know they had scanned 53,000 votes into the system.”

Flynn also called into question the non-partisan members of the Vote Review Panel. DeKalb elections board Vice Chair Baoky Vu previoiusly said the reason non-partisan volunteers are on the panel is due to a law about state senate elections.

John Jackson with the DeKalb County Democrats has called on Hamilton and Tillman to resign, warning that the county is headed toward a disaster on Nov. 3.

Writer Logan C. Ritchie contributed to this story. 

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