The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration has three options when it meets at 5 p.m. on Monday to hear a challenge of the eligibility of selected registered voters to cast a ballot in the Jan. 5 runoff election, according to County Attorney Daniel Haygood.
The Board can find probable cause and challenge each of the voters on a list provided to the Board by Patricia Daugherty, 5041 Price Mill Road, west of Bishop, Haygood said. Challenged voters could be allowed to vote, but their ballots would be provisional, he said.
The Board could find that there is no probable cause and dismiss Daugherty’s challenge, Haygood said.
The third option is for the Board to say it cannot take action because of a federal law prohibiting challenges during the final 90 days before an election, according to Haygood.
Haygood said on Thursday that he didn’t know how many names were on the list, which had been submitted as a spreadsheet, but Daugherty said on Saturday that the list contains more than 1,400 names.
The meeting of the five-member Board is scheduled to take place at the Elections and Registration Office, 10 Court Street, opposite the Courthouse in Watkinsville. The meeting also will be live streamed on the Facebook page of the Elections and Registration Office.
Early voting for the Jan. 5 runoff continues through Thursday at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Daugherty, who is active in Conservative Republican Woman of Northeast Georgia and unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Bill Cowsert in the Republican primary in 2016, submitted a list of voters to the county on Dec. 18 that she said “appear” to have moved out of the county.
|Daugherty, True The Vote, Five Challenges|
Daugherty cited “Available data from the United States Postal Service National Change of Address (NCOA) and other commercially available sources” as evidence that the Oconee County registered voters should not be eligible to vote.
Daugherty told me in an email message on Saturday that True The Vote, based in Houston, asked her if she would issue the challenge for Oconee County.
True The Vote, which calls itself a “voters’ rights organization,” states on its web site that it is partnering “with Georgians in every county to preemptively challenge 364,541 potentially ineligible voters” before the Jan. 5 runoff.
Daugherty said True The Vote has “discovered hundreds of thousands of possible illegal votes based on voting out of one's county of residence, voting from out of state, and not being of legal voting age.
“There are more than 1,400 of these votes in Oconee County, so True The Vote asked me if I would challenge,” she said. “The point is election integrity and finding out if we did, indeed, have this many illegal votes.
“The solution will be to contact those voters so they can confirm that their residence is in Oconee County,” she said. “If it is not, the voter rolls need to be corrected. Hopefully this will be an important step in making sure the chaos of November 3 never happens again.”
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger directed two audits of the Nov. 3 election and stated after the first that “Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results.”
The audit did not address the issue raised in the True The Vote challenge.
The Board of Elections has received five letters challenging the True The Vote request.
The ACLU of Georgia said the True The Vote challenge is baseless and that “participating in this charade violates state and federal law.” Federal law “prohibits any kind of systematic voter removal program less than 90 days before an election,” Sean J. Young, legal director of ACLU of Georgia, wrote.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law said the “probable cause threshold is not met precisely because of the unreliability of the data that the challengers have presented.”
Marc Erik Elias of Perkins Coie law firm in Washington wrote that the National Change of Address database is “notoriously unreliable” and “Should the County deny Targeted Voters their right to cast regular ballots, we will not hesitate to initiate legal action against you to protect lawful Georgia voters against these partisan attacks.”
Kirsten Clarke of The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington wrote that Georgia Law “precludes the arbitrary refusal to allow a voter to register and the arbitrary removal of an existing voter. Where an elector challenges another elector’s qualifications, for example, the challenger bears the burden of proof.”
A final letter, representing the League of Women Voters, Georgia NAACP, Black Voters Matter, among others, says Georgia voters can change their “mailing address without impacting their voting eligibility.”
Examples are “someone who has temporarily moved to care for family during the coronavirus pandemic, or is a member of the armed services stationed out of state,” the letter states.