Campaign signs outside of a voting location in Clayton County, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Georgia State Elections Director Blake Evans stated in a release last Tuesday that voter eligibility challenges will be placed under more scrutiny this election season.

The release breaks down the process by which challenges should be handled by poll workers and members of the state’s board of registrars, as well as the courses of actions offered for voters whose eligibility is challenged.

Voters are allowed to challenge other voters’ eligibility through O.C.G.A. 21-2-229, which states “any elector of a county or municipality may challenge the qualifications of any person applying to register to vote in the county or municipality and may challenge the qualifications of any elector of the county or municipality whose name appears on the list of electors.”

Echoing the statute, Evans announced in the release that challenges from voters must be in writing, so they can be evaluated by the board of registrars. 

The board determines voter eligibility by confirming a voter’s place of residence. This evaluation prevents voters living in other counties or states from illegally participating in local elections.

Another statute, O.C.G.A. 21-2-217, lists the personal information that the board of registrars is permitted to access and use in order to decide a voter’s eligibility status. This information includes, but isn’t limited to, age, marital status, details regarding place of employment, places of residence of immediate family members and registration for motor vehicles and other personal property.

If a voter becomes a victim of a registration challenge at the polls, they will still be able to vote in-person at their designated local polling location. However, a challenge can determine the type of ballot the voter can cast. According to the release, a challenged voter who can prove they live in the residence listed on their voter registration at the polls will be able to vote freely with a regular ballot. A challenged voter who can’t prove they permanently reside in the residence listed on their registration will need to cast their vote using a provisional ballot.

Provisional ballots aren’t counted automatically like regular ballots. Instead, provisional ballots are set aside until the board of registrars can confirm or deny the voter’s eligibility. 

Evans said eligibility challenges shouldn’t be used as a form of voter suppression, as every voter who appears at the polls should be granted the opportunity to settle an issued challenge.

“If an in-person voter’s eligibility has been challenged, and they show up to vote, every effort to resolve the challenge should be afforded to the voter,” Evans said in the release.

The elections director also stated that each county’s leadership has the authority to interpret relevant state law when deciding how to address voter challenges in person at polling locations.

Early voting began Monday, Oct.17. A list of voting locations by county is available here.