Thursday, August 12, 2021

Routine Maintenance Of Oconee Voter List Results In Removal Of 368 Names; Another 432 Could Be Labeled Inactive

***Part Of A Statewide Secretary Of State Effort***

State and county election officials have removed 368 voters from the Oconee County registration list since the end of June as a result of routine maintenance of the list.

In addition, early this month county election officials sent notices to 432 Oconee County voters who have not had any contact with the county’s election system for at least five calendar years.

If those voters receiving the notice do not respond, they will be moved from active to inactive status and the countdown will have started for possible removal from the list.

The local action is part of a statewide effort at maintaining the voter lists that has seen challenges to 101,789 registered voters who were believed to be no longer properly registered and to 185,666 voters who have not been active in the last five years.

Rebecca Anglin, director of Elections and Registration for Oconee County, discussed the local implications of the statewide efforts at voter list maintenance last week at the August meeting of the county Board of Elections and Registration.

Anglin also outlined early voting procedures that will be followed in the November election, when voters county-wide will decide a referendum that could add a new sales tax in the county to fund transportation needs.

Action Item

The sole action item at the Aug. 4 meeting of the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration was the vote to put the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Douglas Hammond, Anglin, Ken Davis

The Election Board was responding to a request by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners that the election be called to decide the fate of the sales tax initiative.

The referendum, if passed, will increase the sales tax in the county from 7 to 8 percent and generate revenue for county roads and multi-use paths.

Anglin said that the last day to register to vote in that election is Oct. 4.

Early voting will be from Oct. 12 to Oct. 29 at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing. Saturday voting will be on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23. No early voting will take place on Sundays.

The county has intergovernmental agreements with Bishop, North High Shoals, and Watkinsville to run the elections from those cities. Bogart, which is partially in Clarke County, handles its own elections.

Anglin announced at the meeting last week that qualification for candidates in those cities will take place Monday through Wednesday of next week at the Elections and Registration Office, 10 Court Street, across from the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Cancelled List

Anglin told the Election Board at the meeting last week that the county had 357 voters who were moved from the inactive list to cancelled list as of July 28.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger put the entire list of 101,789 voters being challenged statewide on the web.

I downloaded that list and pulled from it the names and addresses of 371 voters in Oconee County.

The list showed that the state had received a National Change Of Address form from the U.S. Post office for 261 of these voters.

Another 109 had been sent election mail that had been returned as undelivered.

Only two were persons were being removed for having had no contact with the election system for at least eight years.

14 Missing Voters

I asked Anglin and Jennifer Stone, assistant director of Elections and Registration, for help in understanding why the state list contained 371 names and Anglin had used the 357 figure in her report.

Stone explained in a telephone conversation on Aug. 10 that five additional names had been removed on July 29, bringing the total to 362. Anglin had reported the figure for July 28.

All five of those were identified as having had their mail returned undelivered.

In addition, five names were removed when the person had been identified as deceased, bringing the total to 367.

The state listed three of those as individuals whose mail had been returned and two as having on file a change of address. (I am smiling when I type that.)

All 14 Identified

One person was cancelled when that voter moved to Clarke County, bringing the total to 368.

The state record lists a change of address for that person, but Stone said that a new registrant in a different county also results in a separate notice, and that is why it was not counted initially in the list of 357 cancellations.

And three of the persons on the state’s list of 371 were confirmed as registered voters when they renewed their driver's licenses and automatically became registered. That makes the total 371.

Each of those three had been listed by the state as having had their mail returned undelivered.

So Anglin’s total did not pick up the total 368 cancelled because she was classifying the cause of cancellation by date–the original date used by the Secretary of State--and from a different source.

Stone was able to specify precisely what had happened to each of the 14 cases.

Second List

When I went through these additional cancellations with Stone in our telephone conversation, she said cleaning of the files “is ongoing all of the time.”

“We are constantly working the voter list,” she added.

Anglin had made that same point in identifying the individuals who were sent a letter on Aug. 2 informing them that they would be moved to inactive status if they did not respond to the letter.

Persons receiving the notice can return a form, postage-free, and avoid being classified as inactive.

Their registrations will be classified as “inactive” only if they do not respond within 30 days.

The individuals receiving the letter have had no contact with the election system in the last five calendar years, Anglin explained.

No contact means they have not voted, requested an absentee ballot, signed a petition, updated their registration by changing their address, or renewed their driver’s license.

Inactive Voters Can Vote

Inactive status does not prevent voters from casting a regular ballot as usual, Anglin told the Board at the meeting on Aug. 4.

Voter files that remain inactive for two more election cycles will be mailed another notice asking them to confirm their registration. Inactive voters who do not respond to the second notice will have their registration cancelled.

That means that the two individuals eliminated from the Oconee County list this year for no contact had not had any type of interaction with the election office in at least eight years.

Anglin did not report the total number of persons in the county receiving the letter telling them to respond or be labeled inactive, but I downloaded the statewide list from the Secretary of State web site and sorted out the 432 voters in Oconee County.

Statewide Figures

Raffensperger, in his announcement of the challenge to the 101,789 voters statewide, said that other than the regular monthly removals of voter files for felony convictions and death, this is the first major cleaning of the voter rolls since 2019.

Federal law prohibits list maintenance during a general election.

The 101,789 voter files to be removed included 67,286 identified from the National Change of Address form, 34,227 voter files that had election mail returned to sender, and 276 that had no-contact with elections officials for at least five years, either directly or through the Department of Driver Services, the statement said.

Raffensperger’s statement said that in addition to the 101,789 removed through those sources, his office removed 18,486 voter files of dead individuals based on information received from Georgia’s Office of Vital Records and the Electronic Registration Information Center.

The analysis of the Oconee County records shows that the 18,486 additional records of deceased voters is likely to overlap with the 101,789 identified from the other sources.

And the Oconee County records, which are part of the statewide figures Raffensperger is referring to, also indicate that some of those on the list of 101,789 actually were reinstated.

That occurred in Oconee County for three individuals.

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