State Election Board Meeting 09/10/20

Present: SOS, R. Sullivan, A. Le, D. Worley, M. Mashburn 

Approval of previous minutes: Full approval

Public comments: 

-George Balbona: Questions about spending from Ronbeck on costs of mailing ballots in June. Also concerned about document he received that was redacted – showed info on broken seal on poll pad. 

-Dan Gasaway: Fmr. House Representative; had county level “malfeasance” twice and overturned two elections; now advocates for more GA elections integrity; doesn’t believe there is political will to fix issues; asking SEB to request US Justice Dept help

-Jean Dufort: CGG member – concerned about the process of the voter review panel and the percentage that counts for voter intent. 

-Tessa Saxon: Thomasville Election Supervisor said she filled out a ballot application for her mother who had passed when in fact it was intended for her grandmother. She made a mistake in putting the wrong name. 

-Priscilla Smith: (Not present) 

-Michael Pernick: NAACP LDF – pleased about clarifications for absentee voters but asks for modifications – there was written comment letter. Two issues: educate voters on how to vote in person if they already ordered ballot (explains how); instructions to use “two envelopes” confuses voters and instructions should be more uniform (and correct)

-Eduardo Cortez – with Brennan Center – recommends people use red to fill in for the ballot for easier reading; suggest threshold for approval between 5-25%

-Stephen Day – (some breakup) personally witnessed and adjudicated (in Gwinnett County) on voter intent and feels the new rule would disenfranchise. Needs to open up to any marks near the oval. 

-Aunna Dennis – Common Cause GA – Rules should not limit counties to auditing one race; transparency for audit should be increased – esp around public presence; audits should be viewable by public; SOS should publish on their site all the info about audits as well 

-Lee Holsworth – has case on docket today and didn’t know procedure – asks when his case will be coming up. Ryan explains how he can speak on the case. 

-Elizabeth Howe – Asked questions on 8/27 to SEB re: SOS voter intimidation. Speaks to examples of SOS publicly “frientening and misleading” voters

-Margaret Arnett – Questions from voters if they can bring absentee ballots to polling places. Can this be authorized across the state? Can request forms be dropped in the dropboxes? It varies by county. SEB should approve this state-wide. 

-(MISSED NAME) – also asks about timeline for when specific cases will be presented 

-Lonnie Hollis – Asking about Troup County case and wants to comment on it then. 

-(Missed name) – agrees with previous statements about voter intent limit 

-Liz Troop- Speaking to voter intent and how ruling doesn’t address absentee ballots (hand marked paper) that have simple X’s 

-Lon Fezmer (spelling?) – Not present

Attorney General’s Report: 

From Charline McGowan – 9 Consent Orders with two being re-considered (2015-100; consolidated consent order for Fulton) and 1 dismissal. Suggests approval for all these as based on their report (which is before SEB members). 

Fulton 2015-079 – Mashburn speaks on this being fair – Mashburn re-words and moves that all be accepted and approved

Cases for Consideration:

Worley would like some cases pulled individually to discuss 2016-046 (Troop); 2017-069 (Sparta); 2018-059 (Baldwin); 2018-066 (Jefferson); 2018-101 (Fulton)

Mashburn would like to pull 2019-009 (Gwinnett) as well as companion case 

Mashburn moves to approval all cases as recommended except the above which were pulled. 

Cases: 

2016-046, Troup County – Multiple complaints that Board Member Mr. Jason Creel publicly supported a candidate. Feb. 2016 Troup Commissioner Candidate Davis held a fundraiser and Mr. Creel was a table sponsor (listed publicly). Mr. Creel also took photos supporting the candidate. Local blog readers picked it up and pushed for SOS calls (five complaints followed). Mr. Creel says he is impartial – does not believe the provisions in his oath affect him as a private citizen. Recommends dismissal as there’s no evidence this affected him as a Troop County board member. Do not believe Mr. Creel identified himself as a board member at this event.  Worley comments – not sure how the rules are supposed to deal with board members supporting candidates. He prefers to defer to Attorney General for interpretation for statues. Le mentions this is his “first amendment right” to do so in his personal capacity. Does not want to prolong his case just for clarification. Can they escalate a question for an opinion letter without prolonging for Mr. Creel. Worley is ok with this. Mashburn had researched some confusing past rulings and would like the attorney general comment.  MOTION to dismiss carries. 

-2017-069, City of Sparta – Mr. Haywood says he was challenged and removed from the rolls by Cobb Supervisor but did not receive notice of the hearing. States that notices were sent over email and USPS. Recommend dismissal as no code violated. Worley – challenge was overturned by a court immediately and if there was no basis for the removal (don’t know because she is not cooperating) then there was a violation. Worley wants to send to Attorney General. Mashburn concerned about lack of cooperation with investigators and seconds motion. Motion carries – referred to AG. 

2018-059, Baldwin County – Sept. 2018 ACLU of GA (via GA Shift) reported that Baldwin County held irregular office hours and demanded ID to submit a form (proof of residency). Research showed that Baldwin was using older forms but was processing forms but sending a letter that people would need to show ID when voting. Baldwin did close regularly for lunch but has now hired a part time person to fill that gap.  SOS office suggests dismissal. Worley – Concerned that Baldwin gave Shift inaccurate forms that asked for ID which is not required. Concern that old forms were still in use and “former SOS” official said local officials had been trained to accept forms without proof of ID. But seems that isn’t the case. Are these still being used? How can we correct this?  Ryan Germany – Forms have now run out and aren’t being used. All registrations were accepted and no ID requirement was in place. Ryan confirms counties have been told to use the new forms and ID isn’t required. No proof any county was using old forms AND requiring ID. Harvey says he can’t confirm fully that no one has old forms but guidance is clear about their implementation. Brad: SOS should send notification to only use newer forms. Motion carries – dismiss but with SOS rec on changing forms. 

-2018-066, Jefferson County – 2018, Seniors were to take a bus to vote. Black Voters Matter offered seniors a tour of their bus and that they could take the BVM bus. Ms. Bennett asked people to get off the bus as the center would take them to vote. 72 seniors in all and  57 voted eventually. Recommend dismissed. Worley wanted to discuss this since it had some notoriety and should be done publicly so voters understand the decision. Dismissed with full support. 

– 2018-101, Fulton County –  2 issues of disruption at polls. Betty Price was disruptive in Dec. runoff election and Ms. Singh accused of incident at the polls. Poll worker stated Ms. Singh was not a problem but did remember Ms. Price being “loud” but not interfering.  Motion to dismiss passes. 

-2019-009 & 2019-002, Gwinnett County (Voter Reg) – Lynn Ledford reported 3 false registrations – and done by 3rd party org. Mr. Shakir (voter) could not be reached. Recommend dismissal as no one could be found that submitted 3 registrations. Mashburn thinks this is “serious” and should be referred to AG to use subpoena power. Charline McGowen with AG office – SEB has subpoena power and they should do further investigation. SOS Office – can do further research to find the individuals. Use additional resources. Move to send back for further investigation – approved. 

Letter of Instruction Cases: 

-2016-132 Worth County – UOCAVA 54

-2017-004 Fulton County Restrictions on Campaign Activities 55

-2017-063 Monroe County – DRE and L&A testing Notice 56

-2018-011 Camden County – Cast Ballot 57

-2018-026 Liberty County – Prohibition on Photography 58

-2018-036 Henry County – Absentee Ballot 59

-2018-038 Paulding County – Vote Buying 60

-2018-052 Lanier County – Ballot Format 61

-2020-017 Fayette County – AB Drop Box 62

-2020-019 Spalding County – Absentee Ballot Drop Box

-Moved to have 62 and 63 removed for separate direction, seconded and passed

2017-004 In Jan of 2017 alledgeded that there was campaigning near a polling station in Johns Creek. Alleged to have been wearing a “MAGA” hat at the polling place. Said he should be sent letter. Whurley asked if it had a candidate name on it, and he brought up that the claim alleges that the hat said “Vote for Donald Trump” on it. Investigator confirmed the claim. Mr. Holsworth was called and put on speaker. Asked Holsworth if the hat endorsed a candidate or if it was just a slogan. Always wear a hat to try and avoid skin cancer, and that hat  simply said “MAGA,” nothing about Trump or anything. Says his intent was not electioneering, and he removed it when asked. Saw the event as non confrontational. Had no questions for board members. Board members had no questions for Holsworth. Matt Mashburn move that case be solved with letter of instruction, and seconded it by {missed name}. Mr. Whurley moved that he should not get letter of instruction because he don’t think MAGA hat is violation since it doesn’t have candidate name on it. Common association is not a violation of the statute, and will vote against. Vote: In favor of letter: 3 ayes, 1 opposed motion carries.

2020-017 Fayette County absentee ballot drop box was not in compliance as it was not weatherproof, and was not properly secured. The recommendation is a letter of instruction. Four questionnaire answers were no, and unacceptable as we prepare for a large volume of absentee ballots. Want to ensure that counties are prepared. What trainings or assurances are we getting that this will be rectified and that counties will be prepared for election in November? Chris Harvey answers that things have been done: 1. Grant program where counties can be reimbursed up to $3K for one or more dropboxes. 2. Making sure counties know rules, and contact with questions. 3. Working with groups trying to leverage funds for counties to get dropboxes. Regular communication with counties, and encouraging them to get as many dropboxes as they reasonably can. Rebecca Sullivan says in both cases that both counties had unacceptable boxes, rather than have none at all. Have sec state addressed? Harvey says rules were made clear, and counties are responsible for complying with SEB rules. Francis Watson says they followed up, and both counties stopped using non-compliant boxes until good one arrived. Anlee’s concern is in voter faith and confidence. Do they have faith in the institutions here? Largely yes, right now, but is that sustainable if these problems keep occurring. Chris says last week he sent out rules, and when monitors go out, they will be checking boxes for compliance. Counties typically provide sec of state’s office about dropbox locations, so they can check them. Anlee asked if they are doing spot checks. Frances Watson says yes, they are completing spot checks as they are checking other polling place locations. Brad says this will happen for all 159 counties. Motion for this and Spalding cases simultaneously? Got all questions answered, so we can push on. Motion to issue letter of instruction for both cases, and Whurley seconds. 4 ayes, motion carries.

New Cases:

-Granted Continuations: 76, 77, 78

2020-014 Fulton County Absentee Dropbox: In May of 2020, there still was not surveillance at some places, and at another, someone got the key to a box. Surveillance was found not not be kept for long enough (only 14 days, not 30). Voter thought that locks looked insecure, and he was able to open the box with a key in the lock. He took the key to the police department and gave the key to the officer, and asked that he return the key. Anyone speaking for County? Ms. Palmer sent Mr. Germany a memo addressing this complaint in part. Have purchased the necessary equipment and it will be in place in next two weeks. All of the allegations in complaint were not able to be verified. Asking that complaint be dismissed, due to not being able to find sufficient evidence. Now, equipment has been purchased, and that should suffice. Police have no evidence of key being turned over to police. But new equipment will address security concerns, so no reason for AG to investigate. Mr. Whurley says that we should investigate how key ended up being in the lock and returned to police. Palmer says they need time to investigate. Motion to ask county investigator to conduct investigation. What would AG do? Nothing additional. Anlee seconds. 4 ayes, motion carries.

2016-060 Candidate who was running was mis-listed on ballot. Fulton posted notices at they polling place. Recommended that his be turned over to AG’s office. Palmer is back, and she says that that issue on the ballot was not intentional, and was also self-reported by election officials in Fulton county. Race was not impacted by issue; he was the only candidate for his office. Were able to invalidate the race prior to election beginning. Asking board to close and dismiss the case. Whurley asked how candidate’s name ended up on the Fulton ballot in the first place. Palmer doesn’t know, but says it was mistakenly added.Anlee asked about how improvements and procedural changed has Fulton made since 2016 to safeguard against this happening again? Palmer doesn’t know what measures have been enacted, No one has evidence of changes being made to proofing process. Whurley motions that they send a letter of instruction to county. Anlee wants to make a friendly amendment and moves to add a requirement added that Fulton be sent a consent order or letter of instruction to follow up that they do a training on proofing. Whurley agrees to amendment. Motion carries wit no opposition.

2016-063 Stewart County Some complaint allegations have no substantiation. 18 Electors were placed in wrong districts. All electors did not have proper registration cards. A deceased elector was listed as active though they were deceased. These are the allegations the board are to consider today. Want some of the election officials of the county be found over. Diane Powell sent a letter on behalf of the county. Whurley moves to accept letter into the record. No objection. Whurley makes motion to find over to the AG’s office. Sullivan seconds. Motion passes unanimously. Addendum: Lawyer for the county showed up. He notes that there has been huge BOE turnover since 2016, largely in response to the way Ms. Powell handled the BOE. Many BOE members have turned over since these complaints were filed. New board is taking election security very seriously.

2016-069 May 11th 2016 open investigation for residency question for HD 99 candidate Brenda Lopen Romero and her father voted at a location they did not live. Lopez used the address to vote, despite having moved to new address. Recommending that she and father be bound over AG’s office for their violations. Whurley have councens and thinks case should be bound over. With a case with an allegation with state rep, it is very unfortunate that is has taken so long to investigate and for the board to address. Notes that these things can take time, but for benefit of everyone, when public official is accused of these things, higher priority should be made for those cases. Motion to move case to AG’s office by Whurley. Seconded by Anlee . Motion carries unanimously.

2016-112 July 2016 Gwinnett County Complaint alleged that Brenda Lopez Romero had entered poll location during the election. Candidate made contact with voter and he was told it would take too long. Candidate went to poll manager and voter was able to vote. Recommended that Lopez Romero be bound over to AG’s office for further investigation. Mashburn moves that it be bound over to AG’s office, Sullivan seconds. Motion carries unanimously.

2016-114 Sec of state investigating allegations of 158 voter reg. apps thrown out in dumpster in Clayton County. Person responsible for disposal not found. Recommended that Clayton County Board of Elections be bound over to AG’s office for investigation. Whurley asked if 158 people were placed on Clayton voter rolls? There were, if they were eligible. Sullivan moves that they be bound over, Whurley seconds. Motion carries unanimously.

2016-117 Webster county poll worker found that only two workers were staffing a polling place. Investigation found that only one manager and one assistant due to low turn out and budget concerns. Recommending that they be bound over to AG office. Whurley moves to bind over case to AG, Anlee seconds. Motion carries unanimously.

2016-120 Twiggs county chief magistrate filed complaint about felons voting in 2016 voting. Most claims unsubstantiated. Shannon Carden voted in her children’s name. Recommended that she be bound over to AG’s office for violations. Mashburn moves that they bind the case to AG, Anlee seconds. Motion carries unanimously.

2016-121 Complaints to election board about deceased voters, and that an election worker’s signature being added without her consent to nomination petition for Brown. Over 100 signatures were found to be fraudulent. County awaiting the finding of sec of state. Allegations that Mr. Harrington signed other names to petition. Whurley moves to bind over to AG’s office, Sullivan seconds. Motion carries unanimously.

2016-122 Tina Edwards alleges that Jackie Dove came to obtain voter registration, but they received challenge that Jackie stole his brother’s identity, and registered as someone else. Recommends he be bound over. Recommended that Julian be bound over for visiting different polling places as a candidate. He said he wasn’t campaigning bc he was running unopposed. Anlee moves to bind over, Mashburn seconds. Motion carried unanimously.

2016-154 Brunswick NAACP help voter reg drives and returned applications past deadline. There was a hurricane evacuation, but the election board reopened on 11th. Forms were not brought in until the 13th. Sullivan moves it be bound over to AG, Mashburn seconds. Motions carries unanimously.

2016-123 Dooley county resident alleges that county board of election did not give candidate notice of a hearing. Recommended that this be bound over to AG’s office. Whurley moves it be bound over to AG. Sullivan seconds. Motion carries unanimously.

2016-124 Complaints of poll watcher issues in Walker county. A campaign manager allegedly threatened pollwatcher. Poll watcher allegedly was made to watch tabulation from a distance he found to be unreasonable. Candidate Mark Bearden visited polls for reasons other than voting. Recommended they be bound over to AG. Anlee moves, Whurley seconds. Motion to bind to AG passes unanimously.

2016-129 Athens-Clarke County self-reported UOCAVA deadline missed due to board of elections be bound over due to violation. The county’s representative says they think a letter of instruction would be more appropriate than being bound over to AG. Whurley asked how they’ve made changes to ask how they have ensured that this won’t happen again. The worker who made the error admits her mistakes, and now double-checks her work. She has labeled him as being in her UOCAVA bucket, and he wasn’t and she didn’t know until too late. Anlee asked if the worker has made this mistake again, and she hasn’t. Lee moves to do a letter of instruction. Whurley seconds. Motion passes unanimously.

2016-168 Athens-Clarke board of elections received an absentee ballot to the right address, but no apartment was specified, so ballot was returned. Issue was self-reported, and now they have made changes to the way the apartment number is entered, so it doesn’t happen again. County would like a letter of instruction rather than be bound to AG’s office, as is recommended. Whurley moves a letter of instruction be send. Seconded, and motion passes unanimously.

2016-063 Stewart County – lots of turnover in the office to address this issue from 2016. None of the people affiliated are still there. Some of these allegations arose from case challenging former board of elections refusing to put their candidacy on the ballot. Our organizational process works and we’ve inserted security cameras in the board of elections office. No issues of missing docs since. Mashburn makes motion to recall disposition so it can be reconsidered given attorney’s comments. Seconded, and the motion passes unanimously. Lee proposes issuing a letter of instruction because the issue has been addressed. Seconded, and the motion passes unanimously.

Break from 12:10-12:40

2016-131 Bartow County – accusing a voter of signing and submitting an absentee ballot on behalf of his mother after she passed away. He refused to appear today and said he won’t pay any fines either because he believes he knows how his mother would vote. Motion to refer this to the AG’s office. Seconded, and the motion passes unanimously.

2016-146 Peach County – Ms. Gossier (sp?) sent out absentee ballots after the 3 business day deadline. Under the belief that there is a new supervisor and there have been no new allegations since this incident. Feldman makes a motion to bind case to AG. Seconded, and the motion passes unanimously. 

2016-155 Fayette County – voters in district 10 had been redistricted improperly and received incorrect ballots. Supervisor was out on medical leave and while under staffed, the office did not comply with the court order for redistricting. 82 voters casted incorrect ballots in November 2016 election. Patrick Stow (sp?) represents the Fayette Board. The people overseeing this process no longer work for the county and are currently prepared to make additional changes to address future redistricting issues. Lee suggests sending the county materials on redistricting. Whurley makes a motion to bind case over to AG. Seconded, and the motion passes unanimously. 

2016-157 Putnam county – voter (Ariel Covington) cast a ballot twice (Oct 31st and Nov 2nd) because the ballot was not complete (missing local candidates). Lynn Lassiter (Putnam Supervisor) put up extra signage if voters have issues with ballots and have held more extensive training about easy vote. Motion to bind case over to AG and to local prosecuting attorney. Seconded, and motion passes unanimously. 

2016-162 Bryan county – unqualified voter (Donna Moore) voted on Nov 2, 2016 and she believed her registration would update automatically. Would like to bind the county, poll worker over to AG for not verifying eligibility and send letter of instruction to voter. County says this was a result of human error and that no such incidents have been reported since. Lee proposes sending letter of instruction to voter and turning this back to county. Seconded, and motion passes unanimously.

2016-166 Habersham county – voter did not receive absentee ballot due to clerical error. The request was acknowledged by email and she was told that she would need to vote in-person (even though she was out of state). Mashburn believes probable cause has been established and that this should be bound over to the AG. Olivia (county absentee ballot clerk) says this was a human error and that they are more diligent now. Seconded, and motion passes unanimously.

2016-174 Murray county – voter (Michael Glenn Odell) took advantage of office error and intentionally voted twice. Was issued a voter access card on Election Day and was not listed as having voted, but thought his early vote had not counted. Recommending the election supervisors be bound over to the AGs office. Whurley makes motion to pass over to AG. Seconded, and motion passes unanimously. 

2016-175 Troup county – failed to duplicate provisional ballots to determine what races the elector was entitled to vote. Voters ended up casting ballots in races where they were not eligible. The county takes responsibility for the error and a new procedure has been put in place to avoid this in the future. Whurley believes the magnitude of this issue warrants a motion to bind over to AG. Seconded, and the motion passes unanimously.

2016-177 Thomas county – Tessa Renee Saxson mistakenly completed an absentee ballot application for her dead mother instead of her grandmother (who was not a registered voter). Voter states that this was a human error and that her 87 year old grandmother needed the support voting. Whurley votes to bind over AG so that they can discuss with respondent to find a solution. Seconded, and vote passes unanimously. 

2016-178 Liberty county – GOP county member says the poll watcher badges were mistakenly given to the NAACP, even though they are not a political party. Suggests sending a letter of instruction in response. Ryan Germany describes the difference between poll watchers and poll monitors.


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