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The DeKalb Elections Board denied the latest voter challenge – Here’s why

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The DeKalb Elections Board denied the latest voter challenge – Here’s why

A voter shows their sticker and stylus after casting a ballot at the Decatur Recreation Center on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Election Day. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor

DeKalb County, GA — The latest voter challenge in DeKalb County was denied for failure to prove probable cause by the elections board in a 3-2 vote.    

Brookhaven resident Robert Smith submitted a letter and list of 1,113 names of people he believes are ineligible to vote in DeKalb County pursuant to O.C.G.A. 21‐2‐229 and 21‐2‐230. The letter is dated July 18. 

Smith’s letter states “current residents, or neighbors, told canvassers that the individuals in question had moved and no longer resided at that address. Additionally, we have gathered information of the current residences of these challenged voters.” 

That wasn’t enough evidence to convince all DeKalb Elections Board members. 

Voter challenges brought under O.C.G.A. 21-2-230 must be reviewed and voted on by DeKalb Elections Board members, determining whether probable cause exists to sustain the challenge, based on the materials presented by the challenger before a hearing would be required. 

“The robust voter list maintenance program conducted at the state level, in accordance with federal law, is the mechanism for removing voters based on change of address, which is the basis for the challenges the board has considered most recently,” Board Chair Dele Lowman Smith told Decaturish. 

Under O.C.G.A. 21-2-229, the burden is on the challenger to prove that the challenged voters are not eligible. 

“VRE (DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections office) is not staffed to research or investigate the accuracy of individual challenges, and this board has taken the position that it is not an appropriate use of resources for them to do so beyond what is spelled out in our written procedure,” said Lowman Smith. 

DeKalb attorney Irene Vander Els defined probable cause as “the apparent state of facts which seems to exist after reasonable and proper inquiry.” Probable cause requires more than mere suspicion, she said.  

Board Vice Chair Nancy Jester and board member Anthony Lewis voted no on the motion to deny Smith’s request. 

Lewis said the spreadsheet goes beyond basic suspicion to him.  

“The problem with the information provided is that there is no affidavit from people [who were canvassed],” said Karli Swift, a board member. “It still does not rise to the level of providing probable cause.”  

Board member Susan Motter said federal voting laws conflict with state laws in cases of purging voters. Georgia can purge a voter in a shorter timeframe than federal laws allow.    

“The right to vote is constitutionally protected,” said Motter. “There is no constitutional protection of a perfect voter registration list. These challenges are impacting the good. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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