Several counties around the state of Georgia have been inundated with challenges to the eligibility of voters, and which possibly could affect the outcome of the 2022 Midterm Elections. Even though many challenges were dismissed, the threats are ever-present.
For example, there are far-right election deniers that are challenging the eligibility of voters in Laurens County, located in Middle Georgia, pro-MAGA conspiracies claim that the voting machines are manipulating results to hurt Republican candidates. However, members of the Abrams campaign have said the voter challenges and confusion surrounding the voting operation are because of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s and the Georgia Republicans caving to tremendous pressure from conspiracy theorists around vote by mail and drop boxes. As a result, the Senate Bill 202 was passed in 2021.
“We had people stand at the door, they can ask any questions, they will tell you where to go to fill out your applications and to proceed on through the line,” according to Susan Rooks, Chief Deputy Registrar with the Laurens County Board of Registrars, the organization that oversees the election operation. “Sometimes, they ask, ‘what do I do?’ We tell them just touch the person’s name that you want to vote for and keep going to the next page and their ballot. We just instruct them on what to do and when they get through we have to tell them that they can review their ballot, make sure those are the people that you have selected.”
Rooks also says there were several that said they forgot to vote for certain offices or initiatives. And so the commission voids that ballot and lets the person start over and re-try the process. They do allow people the time to carefully review their ballots and try again.
In Spalding County, Ben Johnson is the Chairman of the Spalding County Board of Elections. According to their website, the Spalding County Board of Elections and Voter Registration is tasked to uphold the integrity of the election and voter registration process. However, Johnson has called for the banning of voter machines, a purge of the voter rolls, banning early voting and absentee ballots in his new ‘Contract with America II: Saving America’s Elections,’ on his social media accounts.
Meanwhile in Gwinnett County, there were 11,343 challenges that were thrown out in court in October. The breakdown of the dismissed challenges are as follows: 8,963 change of address issues, 1,604 missing address issues which involved missing apartment unit numbers and 776 non-existent or commercial addresses, according to county officials.
In some counties, voters can sign a residency affidavit, fix the issue and vote like they normally would and provisional ballots can be issued before 5PM on Election Day. The Secretary of State’s office is encouraging election offices to adopt this practice.
The bottom line is this: Any voter challenge must be in writing specifying the basis of the challenge, and must be filed with the county board of registrars, which should review the claims to determine if enough probable cause exists to investigate further. Voter challenges cannot be filed with a poll manager or any poll worker. There are no legal means for an in-person, face-to-face, or immediate challenge at the polling place on Election Day.
“I think we’re going to be fighting with every step of the way but the reality is more mail ballots come in, as turnout continues to grow, what we have seen historically in Georgia, is as voters of color continue to show their power, the backlash from the other side tries to intimidate harass us the laws in the book,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, Stacey Abrams’s campaign manager.
“I’ve got no doubt the challenges will continue and maybe even get worse,” Groh-Wargo continued. “There are now no provisional ballots on Election Day before five o’clock on Election Day. “If you show up at the wrong location, you’re just turned away.”