ACLU offers help to DeKalb County on Election Day
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
DeKalb County, GA — Today 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. Board members Susan Motter, Dele Lowman Smith, Baoky Vu voted in favor of the motion; Anthony Lewis and Sam Tillman voted against.
Volunteers, attorneys recruited by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will act as deputy registrars at each polling place to ensure the proper cancellation of absentee ballots. Fulton County election officials also signed on to use deputy registrars through ACLU.
Elections director Erica Hamilton said if a voter wants to cancel their mail-in ballot, they can call the elections office, or surrender the unused ballot at an early voting location or at a polling location on Election Day.
To date in DeKalb County, 166,963 ballots were requested and 74,998 have been returned, leaving 11,846 canceled when voters turned up to cast a ballot in person, said Hillary Hall of National Vote at Home Institute (NVAHI). Absentee ballots are still being requested.
Board chair Sam Tillman is concerned about ACLU volunteers being trained on election software and gaining access to the State’s data.
“Even though ACLU knows who these folks are, we don’t know anything about them except they were recommended to us by ACLU,” Tillman said.
Motter, an attorney, reminded the board that “lawyers are in a profession that has incredibly high professional standards.”
Tillman responded, “There are a lot of good, esteemed lawyers. I’m sure a lot of them work for the ACLU… I can give you a list of attorneys that have run afoul of the law, and either are now serving prison terms or are on their way to prison.”
County Commissioner Larry Johnson, sitting in on the four-hour meeting, urged the elections department to use resources like grant money, volunteers, and NVAHI consultants to ensure a smooth election. He is not the first official to do so.
“We can’t go backwards. We’ve got people trying to make sure this voting experience is successful and you have expertise, I just want to say, ‘Use these people, Ms. Hamilton.’ Whatever they are asking to be done, let’s get it done so we can move forward.”
According to Hall from NVAHI, communication is still an issue with DeKalb County election employees. She has yet to receive reports and plans and is in the dark on key decisions made by the department.
Board member Lowman Smith said it is too late in the game to still be hearing excuses about why DeKalb County elections department and NVAHI are disconnected.
“We have been in partnership for the better part of a year. It’s now two weeks to the election and they still don’t have the plans that they need in order to have this partnership be carried out effectively,” she said. “I don’t know what excuse there is for that.”
In a director’s report, Hamilton assured the board she is capable and confident to run the election.
“Everything I do is to make DeKalb County look good,” she said.
In other news:
– The Kirkwood Library has a new drop box, opening today at 3 p.m.
– Tents will be supplied at polling locations that do not allow for voters to wait indoors.
– Use dekalbvotes.com to find early voting sites, Election Day polling locations, and more.
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