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DeKalb Board of Elections rejects latest voter challenge

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DeKalb Board of Elections rejects latest voter challenge

Gail Lee presents her latest voter challenge to the Board of Elections

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections on Wednesday rejected the latest in a series of voter challenges brought by Gail Lee.

In this case, Lee challenged 15 voter registrations based on the registrants using post office boxes, United Parcel Service or other business addresses, or virtual mailboxes as their residence addresses.

Lee acknowledged that the same challenge was brought to the board one and a half years ago and was denied. Lee said that in order to be a residence, the voter must occupy the location. Therefore, Lee argued, using a post office box or business address is giving false information on a voter registration application and is a felony. Lee said that she found a total of 246 non-residential addresses listed on registrations.

Lee said that while the Department of Driver Services requires proof of residency and that’s where the information is most often coming from, DDS only requires proof of Georgia residency and that the DeKalb Department of Voter Registration and Elections has a duty to prove county residency.

During public comment, two volunteers for the American Civil Liberties Union, Jeremiah Lowther and Helen McLaughlin, pointed out that unhoused people are allowed to establish residency by using the nearest intersection or street address, and that the reasons why someone might use a PO box include being unhoused or a victim of domestic violence.

Lee said that a drawn map can be used to establish residency and that the VoteSafe program allows victims of domestic violence to have their addresses kept confidential, therefore no one needs to give a business or PO box as an address. 

Lee asserted that giving a non-residential location as a residential address is false information and therefore a felony.

One of the voters whose registration was challenged, James McWhorter, was present and asked to speak.

McWhorter removed his Army veteran hat and said that he had been homeless for a number of years and had used his barber shop business address to receive mail, adding that he bathed and sometimes slept there.

McWhorter said that to get the identification required to vote, he had to present mail as proof of residence.

“I can’t go to the DMV with a circle on a map,” McWhorter said.

McWhorter said that Lee had a right as a citizen to challenge his voter registration, but that she was seeking to take away his rights.

“I served to give you that right, and for you to try to strip me of it, and say that I’m not a resident of DeKalb County…I paid taxes here for 20 years, even though I was homeless. I did my part to contribute,” McWhorter said.

State Representative Viola Davis, who spoke at the end of the meeting, said she was outraged at the possibility that a veteran’s right to vote could’ve been taken away based on a challenge like the one Lee brought. 

Board members were divided along party lines on whether to approve or deny the challenge along party lines. Republican Elections Board member Nancy Jester amended her motion to accept the challenge by excluding McWhorter’s registration and two others that were resolved by the department since Oct. 10.

Jester pointed to that resolution as evidence that the department’s attempts at communication were effective and said that the department had an obligation to follow the law precisely.

All the board members thanked McWhorter for coming and for his military service. Republican Elections Board member Anthony Lewis said that his presence helped clarify questions about why people might use PO boxes or business addresses.

“We’ve speculated about the reasons why people might use a non-residential address, but it has always been speculation,” Lewis said.

Board member Susan Motter said that McWhorter helped put a face to the struggles that voters face that are too often seen only as abstractions.

“Voters aren’t just names on a spreadsheet. Each of them has a real-life story,” Motter said.

Board chair Karli Swift said that none of the challenges brought to the board so far have been based on personal knowledge and that she doesn’t believe that is enough to remove someone’s rights.

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