The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Monday unanimously rejected a challenge by Oconee County resident Patricia Daugherty on behalf of Houston, Texas, based True The Vote of the eligibility of 1,450 Oconee County voters to participate in the Jan. 5 runoff election.
The motion passed by the Board said there was no probable cause of a violation of Georgia law that would render the voters ineligible to cast a ballot.
Kirk Shook, the Republican Party representative on the Board, made the motion to reject the challenge, and Ken Davis, the Democratic Party representative on the Board, offered the second.
The Board took the action after a half-hour of deliberations led by County Attorney Daniel Haygood.
Daugherty, 5041 Price Mill Road, west of Bishop, did not attend the meeting but sent to Haygood an email after it was completed asking for the “determination” that each of the 1,450 voters was in fact qualified.
Haygood responded on Tuesday morning that no further action is planned by the Board of Elections and Registration and that Daugherty is free to appeal to Oconee County Superior Court.
Early voting continues through Thursday, with 10,457 voters having cast a ballot in person at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing, by the end of the day on Monday. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Board of Elections and Registration also has received 3,695 returned absentee ballots, for a total of 14,152 votes cast to date. That is 44.2 percent of the county’s 31,985 registered voters.
Daugherty submitted a list of voters to the county on Dec. 18 that she said “appear” to have moved out of the county and should be ineligible to vote. Daugherty, who is active in Conservative Republican Woman, said subsequently she was taking the action at the request of True The Vote .
|Haygood At Elections Board 12/28/2020|
With the challenge, Daugherty submitted a spread sheet containing 1,450 names of Oconee County registered voters she considered ineligible based on “Available data from the United States Postal Service National Change of Address (NCOA) and other commercially available sources.”
At the meeting on Monday, Haygood presented the Board with two drafted motions, one finding no probable cause and the other finding probable cause.
“Probable cause exists when there are facts and circumstances that could create a reasonable belief that the accused person committed the act alleged,” Haygood said, and the determination must be individualized to each of the electors and the burden of proof rests with the accuser, in this case, Daugherty.
Haygood also said that federal law prohibits the Board from systematically challenging voters during the final 90 days before an election, but he did not provide a motion based on that.
Shook made the motion that “the Oconee County Board of Elections finds that Patricia Daugherty has failed to establish probable cause in her challenge of the eligibility” of the voters on the submitted list.
Despite that, Daugherty in her subsequent email to Haygood, asked “for the determination made by your office as to each of the qualifications of each of the electors that I have challenged. Please include the date and time of the hearing and the basis for your determination.”
Haygood responded that “As no probable cause was found, for the current election, no further action on your challenge as to those electors will be taken and the matter is final as to the Board of Elections’ actions on this matter.”
I asked for and received from Haygood a copy of the list, which contains the 1,450 names with two sets of addresses, one in Oconee County and another labeled "moved." Many of the "moved" addresses are in another state, but many also are elsewhere in Georgia, with Clarke and Barrow counties appearing frequently.
As Haygood told the Board, a second address is not evidence of a permanent move, as voters can have their mail forwarded for a variety of reasons and still be legal residents of Oconee County.
The county does periodic challenges of voters based on the National Change of Address database, he said, under guidelines from the Secretary of State Office. Voters when challenged have to respond to indicate that the Oconee County address remains their legal address.
I did a scan of the list submitted by Daugherty and provided to me by Haygood and found the names of former neighbors who have moved out of the county.
Assistant Director of Elections and Registration Jennifer Stone told me that if any voter requests an absentee ballot to be sent to an out-of-county address, she or he would have to sign a statement that Oconee County was still the legal address.
Haygood said a false statement is a felony.
Stone also said that if an absentee ballot were to be sent to one of the original addresses on the voter list submitted by Daugherty, under Post Office rules for ballots, it would not be forwarded to a different address.
Voters who show up in person have to present an identification and verify their names and addresses.
The video below is of the Dec. 28 meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration. Fran Leathers, director of Elections and Registration for the county, chaired the meeting.
Stone recorded the video below on a camera I lent to her as a way of creating a backup to the recording made by Facebook of the live streaming, which Stone also managed.
Haygood’s explanation of probable cause is at 4:35 in the video.
The final motion by Shook is at 25:58 in the video.
Shook used the number 1,451 in the motion because of an error by Haygood in reading the number from the spreadsheet.