BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, FULTON COUNTY: NOVEMBER 12TH, 2015 MEETING

Address by Elizabeth Poithrus

Member Mary Cooney invited Elizabeth Poithrus to address the board about new Americans. According to Poithrus, citizens have received letters from the Secretary of State asking them to prove their citizenship. She stated that it is illegal to ask someone who has already proven citizenship to vote to do so again. Poithrus wanted the board to be well aware of the law on this issue.

A board member asked what evidence would prove the individual had already provided proof of citizenship, and Poithrus responded that voting in an election would indicate as much. The board member clarified that that was not evidence.

A citizen stated that she moved to Fulton County two years ago and tried to register to vote but that it took her three tries before she was added to the voter rolls. The board asked Dozier and Jones if this was an issue that could be investigated, to which they responded in the affirmative. The board asked them to explain the process behind a registration application and how an application could fall through the cracks. Jones stated that it depends on the time of application. If it was after the voter registration deadline, it would get backlogged.  Although the citizen said that she had also sent her application to the Secretary of State’s office, the voter registration office never received her application. Jones recommended that the citizen call the Secretary of State’s office. Dozier and Jones were charged to investigate the issue.

Voter Registration Challenge Hearings by Debra Davis

Davis had initially compiled a list of two hundred and thirty-six (236) names on the voter rolls that she challenged. About half of the individuals on the list are at least sixty-five (65) years old.*
She claimed that these individuals should not be able to vote. These names were on her list for several reasons: some were deceased, others had relocated and others still were felons. However, the process for challenging a name on the voter roll had not been clearly set out by the board and the hearings were inconclusive. The board felt that Davis had not obtained sufficient proof that these voters shouldn’t be on the rolls and that her evidence was based on hearsay. The board decided to table the challenge, meet again over this month to clearly define voter challenge processes, and reopen Davis’s challenges during the meeting next month.**

Two of the individuals on Davis’ list were present at the meeting, so the board conducted those hearings during the meeting.

Member Cooney opened the hearing on Anthony Willingham. Davis was sworn in as a witness. Davis claimed that at the time of the list’s creation, Willingham said that he lived on Dublin, and she found no proof of any Willingham at 5010 Dublin Drive SW. The board concluded that the only evidence that Willingham did not live there was hearsay. She started to verify the petition, which listed a lot of voters, some of whom were deceased. She asked Willingham for his information, and he stated that he currently resides at 5010 Dublin Drive SW and has lived there for twenty-three (23) years. He said that Davis had come to his house to interview him. The board entertained the motion to reject the challenge, the motion was made, and the board voted to reject the challenge.

Next, the hearing on Parish Johnson of 4840 Arrow Road SW was opened. Davis testified that at the time of the creation of the list, the house was owned by IH2 property. Their website said that there were no current residents at that location. That was the basis of the challenge, along with information compiled by her associates. An audience member commented that if a person has not voted in a while, their name is removed from the Fulton County voter list, thus making Davis’ list irrelevant. The board asked for Davis’s source of information, to which she responded “more than likely someone who went by there.”

Johnson testified that he has lived at the stated address for two and a half (2.5) years. His driver’s license has his work address. At a prior meeting, he provided a bill from a medical lab to the board as evidence of his address, along with a bill from the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management. He currently rents the property. When asked if the landlord is the same as the indicated owner of the property, Johnson claimed that he was not familiar with the acronym of the owning company. The board entertained the motion to reject the challenge,which passed unanimously. 

Davis then testified regarding voter challenges against Willingham’s children, providing the same reasoning she’d provided when challenging Willingham’s residence. No questions were asked. The board entertained the motion of rejecting the challenge. There were three (3) affidavits from all the Willinghams, and all of them testified that they have been qualified and registered in Fulton County. Willingham confirmed this information, and Dozier matched their signatures to verify the accuracy of the affidavits. The challenge was tabled, due to the unknown registration location of Willingham’s son.

The board asked Davis if she had filed challenges to all five (5) names. She said that she had for all, except one that was a duplicate. Dozier needed to verify whether a reasonable challenge existed. They must all have been properly notified, which is all the responsibility of the challenger. Since she was not able to provide that proof, the remaining one hundred and seventy-five (175) challenged voters will stay on the voter registration rolls until the next meeting.

Davis asked for a definition of “proof” that a resident was no longer living at his or her listed place of residence, but the board refused to provide any legal advice. 

New Business

Last Wednesday, the Board of Commissioners approved the use of an outside staffing firm to employ temporary staff next year for forty (40) hours a week. Most of the current staff members are part-time employees.

Early voting at Johns Creek starts on December 6th, 2015 and will run through December 25th, 2015 at the library.

Dozier provided an update on citizenship verification. The letters had not been sent, because the list from the Secretary of State still needed to be scrubbed.

The board provided an update on the status of the City of Atlanta voter rolls. With information from public interest foundations, Esther could study the polls better to review recommendations for effective list management. The board had evaluated recommendations and most were already put into practice. Recommendations that have yet to be implemented will be further discussed by the board next month. Written procedures will be documented for future officials.

Approval for boundary and location changes

  • Combine Precinct 12 and 13 into one, since both precincts share the same building
  • WRO19 and WRO15 will not be combined because they are not adjacent. Precinct ML01 runs between them
  • Combine UC32 and UC34–but not UC35 since it is not adjacent
  • Combine JC16, JC17 and JC18 since they are the same combination. JC17 and JC18 can be removed, since there is capacity to hold all voters at the church.
  • Combine 21A and 21B (or remove 21B–unclear).
  • Change location 34, since the current venue has no heat or air. Change unclear. 

The motion to approve all changes was passed.

*A citizen noted that many of the names on the list are senior citizens, who would not know to call to confirm their voter registration status and would have difficulty discerning how to reply to a written residence verification request.

**

Davis:

  • She and her colleagues have done their research, talked to people, visited homes, read websites, used the Fulton County tax assessment website, and tried to provide reasons for removal.
  • Some of the voters she’s challenging are definitely deceased, as confirmed to her by family members.

Board:

  • Is the lack of response from the remaining one hundred and seventy-nine (179) names enough to warrant their removals?
  • Some of the names on the list seem to be active voters. The board needs to do their due diligence before removing names.
  • Each individual needs to be documented. There should be proof via: records that they have moved. The burden of proof is on the challenger, and it is up to the board to determine if the evidence is valid.
  • The board must go through each name, and their staff must receive proof before deciding to remove names. A separate hearing will be planned to focus on this issue.

 

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