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Douglas County Board of Election meeting 11/9/23

Members present: Myesha Good (chair), Maurice Hurry (vice-chair), Chad Word, Kevin Evans, Michele Crochetiere  

Director: Milton Kidd

Office operations

  • M. Kidd reported there will be a Dec 5 runoff for the mayor of Villa Rica.
  • In response to a question from M. Good, Kidd said that the S.O.S has had issues with providing accurate voter lists. He said his staff have worked on a mitigation method to keep information up to date. It was not an issue in this election.

Old business

The board voted to take off the table an issue raised in a previous meeting about updating voter rolls when it comes to the board’s attention voters are deceased and that information is not provided through regular channels. Board member C. Word brought a list of 12 obituaries of persons who appear to be on the voter rolls. Two attorneys from the county were present. 

Attorney Jonathan Nussbaum said there are three options for removing deceased voters in code section 21-2-331:

  1. The state vital records reports the names and identifying information of deceased persons to the S.O.S. The S.O.S. compares those names to registered voters and forwards a list of deceased voters to the county for removing them from the rolls.
  2. The board can purge voters if one of four pieces of information is available such as a death, obituary, signed statement from a family member.
  3. The board can bring a challenge to a voter and must follow the procedures in the law such as a written notice and a board hearing. Kidd asked if the hearings can be scheduled during a regular board meeting, and the attorney said they can.

Kidd said his advice to the board was to contact the vital records office about the three persons on the rolls whose obituaries Word has furnished. He suggested that if the vital records office confirms those persons have died, then the board can send notices and hold hearings to remove them from the rolls.

Word responded that code section 21-2-331(f) requires the registrar to take action within sixty days of receiving information about a voter’s status. He said that process is not happening regularly. He went on to summarize each of the instances where he had an obituary for a possible voter (year of death, in or out of state, disposition). His conclusions: 11 of 12 were on active or inactive status; the vital records process is not working; the No Contact and NGE processes are not reliable and have not been reliable for over a decade; the board needs to follow the law; and the legislature authorizes the board to challenge voters. 

Kidd asked a staff person to report on the latest status of the 12 voters in question. The staffer said he check the S.O.S. website at 2:00 that afternoon and found all but three of the persons were on inactive status. 

In a brief discussion, Good stated that no one had used the name of a deceased person to vote. Kidd said the procedure for removing takes time. Concerning the local and state vital records offices, Word said accurate lists are not being transmitted. 

Word had 5 motions to make:

  1. He moved that the county attorney request from the county vital records office the lists of deceased persons they had sent to the state for the period from October 2022 to October 2023. Attorney Leslie Suson stated she was not sure if that would be the role of the county attorney. It would be the role of the board.

Word amended the motion to having the elections board request the lists of deceased persons from the county vital records for each month from October 2022 to October 2023.

M. Hurry asked if they get this info from the vital records office. Staff said they get a monthly list. 

Vote: motion failed 2 (Word, Crochetiere) for, 3 (Good, Evans, Hurry) against

  1. Word made a motion that the board file an open records request with the state vital records registrar for the list of Douglas County deceased persons sent to the S.O.S. from October 2022 to October 2023.

Vote: motion failed 2 (Word, Crochetiere) for and 3 (Good, Evans, Hurry) against

  1. Word made a motion that the board file an open records request with the S.O.S. for information they received about Douglas County deceased persons for the period from October 2022 to October 2023. 

Vote: motion failed 2 (Word, Crochetiere) for and 3 (Good, Evans, Hurry) against

  1. Word made a motion for the board to send letters to the county vital records office, state vital records office, and S.O.S. about their concerns, giving their findings and the next steps for fixing the “broken process.” 

Kidd asked a staff person to update on getting accurate and timely information. She said the S.O.S. has acknowledged they have an issue disseminating this information, and they are working on it. 

Vote: motion passed 4 (Word, Crochetiere, Good, Hurry) for and 1 (Evans) against

  1. Word made a motion to have a voter challenge policy. The county attorney would recommend this policy. 

During a discussion, Word indicated the current voter challenge policy is not adequate.

Vote: motion failed 2 (Word, Crochetiere) for and 3 (Good, Evans, Hurry) against

After the votes, Nussbaum said that 21-2-228 provides for a process to deal with the 3 voters who have been brought to the board’s attention. He said the law provides for 4 sources to document a death and obituaries are one of the sources. Good asked Word if he wanted to make a motion. Word said they could use that process to deal with the three deceased persons who appear to be on the rolls. 

New business

Kidd provided a document that legal staff had prepared related to a board code of conduct. According to attorney Nussbaum, the document contained examples of codes of conduct from other boards, including the Board of Commissioners. Kidd noted the elections board is the only county board without a code of conduct.

During a discussion, board members had several questions and stated some of the terms needed to be defined. Kidd said he and his staff would like board input on a proposed code of conduct that they will compile to discuss at the next meeting. Good asked the board members to send in their questions, issues, and proposed language in one week.

Board members concerns

Crochetiere said from visiting the precincts on Tuesday that sees the need to provide voter education on the election process such as primaries, runoffs, general election, etc. Kidd has been looking setting up a discussion with the elections board or county commissioners on voter outreach and education on elections, including municipal elections. 

Evans raised a question about controlling election signs. Kidd said he has thought about spending time with this board and the Board of Commissioners about actions they can take related to political signs. The attorneys responded that there are First Amendment issues, and the boards’ authority on controlling signs is limited.

Word asked if there has been a follow-up on the poll pad issue raised at the last meeting. Kidd said he contacted the S.O.S. about the problem but has not received a reply. 

Word asked if they would be removing the ballot boxes. Kidd said they have not removed them yet because of litigation related to SB 202. He will ask the legal team to follow up and if challenges to the ballot box provisions are exhausted, they will remove the boxes.

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