Oconee County Board of Elections Special Meeting 09/28/20

Backstory:

The Oconee County Board of Elections and The Athens-Clarke Board of Elections received letters from Deborah Gonzalez, a candidate for the GA Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney position, notifying these boards that ballots that have been sent to about 15,000 voters across the 2 counties were incorrect for the DA race.  On the incorrect ballots a candidate, Mr.  Patterson, is being noted as an incumbent; however, Mr. Patterson is not currently the DA.   GA Governor Brian Kemp did not appoint a new DA. 

This issue went to court earlier in the summer when the governor failed to appoint a DA for the position by a particular date, which meant the 2 counties lost the right to elect a DA in 2020 and the DA choice would be left to the governor. The court found in favor of allowing the citizens of Oconee and Athens-Clarke county to choose their own DA via an election in 2020. 

Meetings

Both Oconee and Athens-Clarke BOERs each met on 9/28 to discuss this to discuss how to respond to Ms. Gonzalez’s letters. Both Oconee County and Athens-Clarke county have their respective attorneys handling communications with Ms. Gonzalez.   I cover Oconee county for Peanut Gallery but have included some notes and links from the Athens-Clarke county meeting here because the DA election is on ballots in both of these two counties and the ACC BOER meeting is quite a bit longer and more detailed than the Oconee County meeting on the same issue.

Athens-Clarke BOER

  The Athens-Clarke county special meeting was held 9/28 at 4:30PM via video conference.  The agenda below was found on the board facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/accelections.

The meeting  ran 1 hour 3 minutes and can be watched here:  https://youtu.be/qhFEHoz4iSk  (note that this meeting for Athens-Clarke county also notes that there was a second error in the DA race listing for the third candidate (around 23 minutes in).  Athens-Clarke goes into considerable detail regarding possible corrective action, the details of these, and the legal logistics of such an error with their lawyers in this meeting which is why I have included it here with my Oconee County report. The county notes that the errors may open up a door to contest the results of this race after the election.  During this meeting it is noted that the Secretary of State’s office has relayed to Athens-Clarke county that a “low level” employee made the error. Sherrie Hines, an attorney for Athens-Clarke county, indicates that the law does allow for judicial review (at 30 minutes) and it is also indicated that it is not a “small” mistake.  The board unanimously voted to send letters to the 11,000 voters that received the incorrect ballots explaining the mistake. The board voted to not reissue corrected ballots. The Board attorneys will reply to Ms. Gonzalez via a letter. The error will be posted on the board website.   

Oconee County BOER

Oconee County BOER meeting was streamed via Facebook live at the following link:

9/28/2020 8:30 AM

All members present with Jay Hanley via telephone.

BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND REGISTRATION MEMBERS:

FRAN LEATHERS, CHAIR

JAY HANLEY, VICE CHAIR

KEN DAVIS

DOUGLAS HAMMOND

KIRK SHOOK

The agenda below can be found on the Oconee County website agenda center at: https://oconeecountyga.civicclerk.com/Web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?aoid=1267

At the 9 minute and 26 second meeting in the link above, Oconee county BOER notes that they sent out over 4000 incorrect ballots. They spoke to Athens-Clarke BOER due to the election being for both counties and that county sent out over 11,000 incorrect ballots. In a letter to the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration, Ms. Gonzalez asked for replacement ballots to be sent out.  Oconee BOER notes that they cannot do this as the DA race ballot proofing was created for them by the Secretary of State’s office. The state qualified the candidates.  The Board agrees that their lawyer will notify Ms. Gonzalez that she needs to contact the state to discuss ballots. Ms. Gonzales wants verification that the touch screen ballots have been fixed. Oconee BOER indicates the SOS will do this and that since Logic and Accuracy testing has not occurred due to a database issue statewide it will not be an issue to verify the fix. They will contact Ms. Gonzalez when they have verified the fix during L&A testing.  Oconee BOER has agreed to work with Athens-Clarke county to notify voters by posting the error on both of their websites.  As of the writing of this report the Oconee BOER website https://www.oconeecounty.com/247/Elections-Registration has issued the following: 

 IMPORTANT NOTICE TO VOTERS:

On 4,119 absentee ballots mailed to Oconee County electors, who had requested such ballots, Brian Patterson, one of the candidates for District Attorney for the Western Circuit, was erroneously listed as an incumbent due to an error made by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office in its ballot instructions to the Oconee County Board of Elections.  Mr. Patterson is not the incumbent and should not have been listed as the incumbent on the ballot.  All subsequent ballots and electronic voting machines will not list an incumbent in the race for District Attorney.  The absentee ballots with the error will not be reissued and electors who received those ballots should use those ballots to place their votes and should disregard the incumbency notation.

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