Dekalb County Board of Elections Meeting 11/15/19

New BRE Attorney Vivienne Ernstes  and deputy attorney Terry Phillips introduced themselves. She is replacing Bennett Bryan, who’s running for office. 

Item 1 – Approval of Minutes – passed

Item 2 – Public Comment

First commenter Paula Bosworth concluded her remarks by saying the audience couldn’t hear BRE discussions, and that they need amplification. The room was full and it seemed all members of the public applauded.


Second commenter, myself, said that voting on the new Dominion BMDs are not private, yet GA law says counties must ensure the privacy of our votes. Joy Wasson stood with a life-size mockup of the BMD screen to demonstrate how easy it is for others in the polling place to see voter choices.

Item 3 – Election Certification approved without discussion. 

Item 4 – Challenges

Challenged were Anderson, Guerrand, Guerrand, Daniel, and Johnson. If letters came back, those voters will be removed from rolls. Challenger named Musserella.


Susan Motter asks whether burden of proof shouldn’t be on the challenger, and notes that Musserella hadn’t come to the BRE meeting, and implies Musserella might not have actually sent the challenge letter. Tillman responds to Motter that they’ve done everything required by law. Tillman says that it’s not appropriate for BRE members to try to contact voters in question. (Motter has previously tried to contact purged voters to give them a chance to update their registration)

Lewis makes motion to accept staff recommendation on purge. Motter & Smith oppose but vote carries.

Item 4c – Challenger came in person and asks why she received a purge letter for someone (Diondre Daniels ) who homeowner knows hasn’t lived at challenger’s address for 30 years. Homeowner seemed to think there was some devious reason, but that isn’t explicit. Tillman notes purge letter was originally sent to wrong address. Attorney explains why burden is on challenger to bring a challenge. Attorney says that it could be a wrong address situation. Erica Hamilton says such a voter might vote a provisional ballot, but it couldn’t count if she weren’t on rolls, and says [this is adding a layer?] Dele Smith asks why nobody is brought before the board to get more confirmation of their data. Dele Smith moves to defer the Diondre Daniels decision until confirmation of a correct address. Tillman says that getting an address wouldn’t solve the problem that “we have right now.” Erica Hamilton (unintelligible). Boaky Vu points out that the challenger is here in person, and that Daniels’s correct address is separate matter. Anthony Lewis asks, “What if it was just a mixup such as the address being “Court” instead of “Drive?” Vu says it’s clear cut, and that trying to figure out where Daniels lives is separate matter. Dele Smith asks, “What if there were an error?” Erica Hamilton says she can put Daniels back on the rolls in such a case. Smith asks, “What if it’s just a missed keystroke, would BRE be asked to vote on this?”

I DID NOT HEAR IN THIS DISCUSSION WHETHER ANY OF THESE VOTERS HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN PUT ON “INACTIVE” STATUS. GA 21-2-234 SAYS VOTERS MUST BE MOVED TO INACTIVE STATUS FOR YEARS BEFORE BEING PURGED.

Tony Lewis says that the BRE has responsibilities because we don’t know why Daniels is on the list. Dele Smith says she doesn’t see how a challenger (“resident”) is materially harmed by Daniels being on the rolls. Smith says purging Daniels dishonors the spirit of her constitutional right to vote. Lewis agrees, but says that it’s mostly homeowners who bring challenges. Daniels’s voter application was hand written, and incorrectly lists her living in Fulton County. Vu moves to remove Daniels, whose registration lists 3280 Balmoral Drive. Motion passes, with Motter voting to remove. 

3rd challenge brought by homeowner (Hoskin?) – Erica Hamilton says 19 people were sent notices who have since moved to a new address; 22 notices were returned; five were not returned. Some could be a NW vs. NE issue. Hamilton recommends 22 should be removed; 14 no-returns should be removed; 5 others should be removed. Hamilton says these voters have been inactive since 2015, or through two general elections. (Compare with 21-2-234)

Sam Tillman recaps categories of challenged voters: “no return/active,” “no return/inactive,” or “returned/inactive.”

Audience member asks Tillman to speak up and he says “We speak as loudly as we possibly can. We’ve heard comments from public. If anyone has questions, ask them after the meeting.”

Vu confirms we’ll leave NGB alone. 

Motter requests that every removal from the voter roll be discussed, just like the voter challenges. 

Someone says that prior to HB316, voters were considered “inactive” if not voting for 3 years. Now with HB 316, they must go 5 years without voting, or through 2 general elections, to be considered inactive. State has to notify voter and give them a chance to update their address. They have 30 days to respond to state letter. Dekalb had 27,000 on state purge list this time. Over 3,000 were undeliverable. They got letters from SOS, but they have to contact county.  DeKalb didn’t write the letter. Dele Smith says several, about 200, were on the state’s list improperly. She asks if Dekalb does quality control on what they send to the state to create the purge list. Erica Hamilton says Dekalb doesn’t have the staff to do quality control, and that they were busy with election when the state sent it out. But Hamilton says they’ve hired new staff to work on that in the future.

Attorney says she will try to find out. Dele Smith asks, “Can we use social media to get voters to check their registration beyond mere legal responsibilities?” 

Erica Hamilton responds that they hadn’t reached out because they didn’t know SOS was going to send out the purge list. Vu (unintelligible). Erica Hamilton says BRE has FB and Twitter accounts. Dele Smith mentions that it’s free to use them, but says taxpayers shouldn’t be burdened with the correcting rolls for the county. She says it would build voter confidence to announce the Dec 16 deadline for responses to the purge letters. 

Hamilton says there were no major issues during election, which had 11% turnout. Vu remarks “When you give voters a choice, they stay home.” (To me, Vu’s remark seems to relieve the BRE of responsibility to do outreach) 

Hamilton announces runoff early voting hours at Stonecrest Library. 

Hamilton says December meeting must be pushed to Friday Dec 13th  – not on a Thursday because of staff training schedule conflict.

Hamilton discusses calendar dates for March 2020 meeting, certification on April 3rd, April 9th meeting. Says they will move the May and November meetings. Says she won’t  change other dates until runoff dates are determined. 

Tiffani Gilbert and Twyla Hart, Voter Registration specialists, are introduced.

Dele moves to accept the proposed calendar, and it passes.

New staff members Kayla Green and Felicia Martinez are introduced. 

Motter thanks county attorneys for attending. Tony Lewis thanks staff for running the election. Dele Smith says she was a judge on essays about voting rights and says that staff should share what they learn at an upcoming conference. Smith says the BRE should cover costs for staff to attend conference. Susan Motter says she is going to conference. 

Sam Tillman asked BOCC members to attend BRE meetings and election night. He wants voters to see new election equipment. 

Adjournment

Afterward, I tell Tillman BRE should announce equipment demos online.


Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings? 

These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.

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