DEKALB BRE SPECIAL CALL MEETING
Thursday, October 25, 2023, 10:05 am
1. ROLL CALL:
Karli Swift (At Large) Chair
Vasu Abhiraman (D) Vice Chair
Nancy Jester (R)
Anthony Lewis (R)
Susan MoKer (D)
2. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Passes 5 – 0
3. PUBLIC COMMENTS
Judy Sophianopolis – Voting should be easy, and fraud is rare. Thanks for lots of Early Voting opportunities.
Jeremiah Luthor, a volunteer for ACLU – Says the burden of proof lies with challengers and thinks unhoused should be able to vote. Thinks challenges can cause confusion and damage election integrity.
Helen McLaughlin, ACLU volunteer – Homeless and domestic violence survivors need to vote, and challenges should be thrown out.
Karen McGown, Poll manager – Wants to see how much these challenge efforts are costing the county, and what other Elections business has been put off because of them. Challenges remark in previous meeting that the intent of challenges is not to disenfranchise anyone. “Is it simple obstruction? Is it just voter intimidation?”
Liz Throop – Many Americans don’t know the difference between a residential address and a mailing address.
5. ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION
Challenger Gail A. Lee – Her team found 246 non-residential addresses listed as residential addresses in DeKalb. DeKalb doesn’t change these registrations unless they are supplied with better addresses for the voters. Lee says leaving them on the rolls risks their voting twice – once at their real residential address and once at their PO Box. She says voters giving false information are guilty of felonies. Lee says people have been registered at PO boxes but list it as a street address, listing their box number as an apartment number.
Lee says UOCAVA instructions say that “you cannot use a PO box” for your residential address. Says it’s the county’s responsibility, not the SOS’s, to determine eligibility. Ms. Lee says the homeless are instructed to draw a map of where they live – not to use a PO box for their residential address. Cites 21-2-235(b) regarding the time frame for removing voters due to no contact. She asks that the county supply information about VoteSafe to challenged voters.
Ms. Lee says 246 voters in DeKalb list unacceptable addresses for their residential addresses – using PO boxes, commercial addresses, or virtual mailboxes.
Attorney Julietta Henry says all the USPS and commercial post office addresses, and other commercial addresses, have been coded in GARVIS as non-residential addresses. Henry reviews the 15 voters challenged, giving details about how the county tried to contact them (including certified letters, phone calls, and emails) and voter responses. She says when the person last voted, if ever. She says one corrected his registration when he showed up to vote a Provisional ballot, and one was dropped from DeKalb rolls because she lives in an extended-stay hotel in Fulton County. Many of the others didn’t respond to letters or couldn’t be reached by phone.
Jester makes a motion to accept challenges, and Lewis seconds.
Abhiraman – says Lee suggests that people could double vote if allowed to vote from PO boxes, and asks if she has seen evidence of this happening. Lee says she has not.
Motter – asks Lee if she interacted with anyone she has challenged, and Lee says she hasn’t. Lee says they did ask people at the commercial addresses if anyone lived at their business, and no one did.
Jester – asks if in the future whether people will be able to register with PO boxes as their residential addresses (because of GARVIS) and is told no. She asks Attorney Henry if the county plans to mail letters to other voters using these non-residential addresses, and Henry says they do not yet have a plan. Jester wonders what the plan is if the county finds 50 people are registered at an address, but agrees that this can be discussed later.
One challenged voter, James McWhorter, was present and was asked to speak. He was a homeless vet and needed ID to vote, but couldn’t get a DL without 3 proofs of residential address. He listed a barber shop he worked at as his address to get a DL. He still gets most mail at the barber shop rather than at his home in Stone Mountain. He said to Ms. Lee that she had the right to challenge his registration, but “I served to give you that right,” and said he paid taxes and volunteers at the VA.
Jester – Points out that the barbershop listed by Mr. McWhorter might be in a different precinct than where he lives. She amends her motion to drop Mr. Mcwhorter and the two other voters who have updated their registrations.
Tony Lewis asks if any challenged voter had their non-residential address on their ID card, but no one responds. He asked Ms. Lee if her challenges were just a random sampling of the 246 non-residential registrations in DeKalb.
Ms. Lee says she or a teammate visited all the post offices and commercial mailbox locations.
Motter – People may use PO boxes because they lack ID, or are homeless, or don’t know what a residential address is, or are afraid of having their mail stolen from their street mailbox. Asks that guidance about addresses and about the VoteSafe program be added to the DeKalbVotes.com website, because the SOS website isn’t helpful enough. Says voters aren’t just names on a spreadsheet but real people.
Jester – Says BRE must be dispassionate, and that the BRE could face liability if it doesn’t precisely follow the rules. Says it’s a “huge question” if people are voting in the wrong school board race because their mailing address is in another precinct. Says the “affirmative responsibility of citizenship” means voters have no excuses for putting in incorrect information on their registrations.
Abhiraman – Thanks Mr. McWhorter for his service.
Motter – Says some voters don’t choose to vote in local races, but she supports having accurate residential addresses to encourage voting in all races.
Swift calls vote on motion to accept challenges except to voters #2, 6, and 14.
2 – 3 motion fails.
8. BOARD COMMENTS
Lewis – Thanks Mr. McWhorter for his service. Says he’s been asking county to help voters use VoteSafe “for two years.”
Jester – says she understands Mr. McWhorter because she has family in the military. Predicts current BRE will never sustain any challenge no matter how ridiculous. Concerned about the liability of keeping people on the rolls who should not be there.
Abhiraman – Wants to see high evidence for any bad registrations, such as personal knowledge of the voter’s situation.
Swift – Says that laws do not explicitly ban use of PO boxes, but merely say one must be a resident of the county. She says the burden of proof is on challengers, such as saying someone not in my household is registered at my house. Voters have to show ID to vote, which prevents most fraud. DeKalb’s
The Election Department cleans voter rolls using practices put in place by the state. Challenges take time away from running elections. Recognizes Georgia D87 Representative Viola Davis, who says many voters in her district are homeless, and that laws are unfair to homeless veterans.
Lewis questions why Davis was invited to speak when a member of the State Elections Board has been present at recent meetings but not spoken. Thinks public officeholders should all be treated the same as members of the public.
9. ADJOURNMENT 11:30