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DeKalb Elections denies second voter challenge in a month

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DeKalb Elections denies second voter challenge in a month

File photo by Jonathan Phillips

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb Elections board struck down another set of voter challenges on May 6.

The latest voter challenge points a finger at 60 voters, the majority of whom listed their address as Agnes Scott College in Decatur. DeKalb County resident Gail Lee challenged the eligibility of voters “based on the use of a non-residential property at the time of registration.”

Several voters also used an address that is considered non-residential, like a P.O. Box or commercial business.

The board held two votes. Board vice chair Nancy Jester and board member Anthony Lewis voted against a motion to reject the voter challenge, and voted in favor of removing voters from the DeKalb County voter rolls.

Georgia law requires a voter reside in DeKalb County, but voters do not have to provide a residential address. If a voter is unhoused but resides in DeKalb, they can vote in DeKalb without providing an exact address according to O.C.G.A. 21-2-217.

Under state election law O.C.G.A. 21-2-229, any elector of a county or municipality may challenge any person applying to register to vote. The county’s board of elections sets a hearing during which the challenger must prove the voter in question is unqualified to remain on the voter rolls.

Lee said she received a list of voters in question from Judicial Watch, a conservative think tank.

“In one of their publications it says, ‘In January 2021, Judicial Watch notified the Georgia Secretary of State that our Georgia voter data research showed over 4,700 absentee voters in the November 2020 presidential election, listed non-residential addresses as their place of residence in clear violation of Georgia election law,’” said Lee.

Voters in question are given 40 days to provide proof of address to DeKalb Elections. If they do not respond, the voter is added an inactive list and is ineligible to vote for two general election cycles.

Board vice chair Nancy Jester asked, “Have we now sent a letter asking for those folks to provide a residential address within 40 days?”

Twyla Hart, who served as interim director in 2021, said letters would be sent in the next couple days.

Jester said she met with lawyers, the state Board of Elections and the Fulton County Board of Elections about similar voter challenges. She said feels like last month’s challenges by Lee were not dealt with properly.

“I feel that the sand got put in my eyes at the last meeting and that’s very frustrating for somebody who is supposed to serve as a referee,” said Jester.

Hart responded, “Our procedure hasn’t changed at all. It has been consistent.”

Board member Susan Motter said the burden of proof is on the challenger, not DeKalb Elections, to determine where the voter lived at the time of registration.

“Reading the law, it is quite clear that the burden of proof is on the challenger. The Board of Elections did not write this law. The elections office did not write this law … As far as the challenger having burden of proof, that kind of conversation belongs at the General Assembly. Not so much here. We have been dealt a hand of cards by the General Assembly, and we must play the cards we have been given,” said Motter.

This is the second challenge Lee has brought in a month. On April 22, DeKalb Elections board members denied her previous challengein a vote 4-1.

In 2021, NAACP and Coalition for the People’s Agenda alleged in a lawsuit filed February 2020 that DeKalb County Elections Board was unlawfully purging voters from the DeKalb County registration rolls in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The lawsuit settled for $82,500.

Board chair Dele Lowman Smith referred to the lawsuit, saying that when she joined, DeKalb Elections board regularly heard challenges and removed voters from the rolls. One lawsuit was “the genesis of the procedure that we are using today.”

In other news:

– A polling location in Snapfinger precinct is temporarily changing for the primary election on May 24, said Elections Director Keisha L. Smith. Details have not been released by DeKalb Elections.

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