The Glynn County Board of Elections voted to take no action on a challenge from a state representative to the eligibility of 262 registered voters.
Georgia law allows a registered voter to challenge the eligibility of another voter if probable cause can be shown that the voter does not meet the qualifications to vote.
Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, based his challenge on the voters’ residency. He brought to the board’s attention data produced by Mark Davis, Derek Somerville and a Texas-based organization called True the Vote, he explained.
The residences listed on voter registration records were compared to the U.S. Postal Service’s national change of address database, Jones said. After making a “sincere” effort to filter out military service members and students, he said as many as 262 voters registered in Glynn County have filed change of address forms in other locations, many out of state.
Board members entered a closed session to discuss potential litigation, emerging roughly 45 minutes later to rule that Jones’ evidence did not constitute probable cause to launch an investigation into the 262 voters’ registration information.
Board member Keith Rustin and Chair Patty Gibson did not believe his evidence was convincing enough to undertake the task in the middle of a runoff election. Even if they wanted to, Gibson said the board was bound by a federal law which prevents them from altering voter rolls within 90 days of an election.
Board member Sandy Dean voted against the motion to reject Jones’ challenge, stating the board needed more data to make any decisions on the matter. Tommy Clark and Patricia Featherstone, the remaining members of the board, were absent from Tuesday’s meeting. Gibson and Rustin are Democrats while Dean and Featherstone are Republicans. Clark was appointed by the county commission.
Jones said after the meeting that he was simply bringing the matter to the board’s attention and hoped they would begin investigating the suspect registrations after the Jan. 5 runoff elections.
“It’s important that the board takes the data provided and looks at it themselves,” Jones said.
While the board would not have been able to remove anyone from the voter rolls until after the runoff election, he said other options were available.
“If they’d gone through the process scrutinizing these people, they could have flagged them as provisional ballots until after the election,” Jones said after the meeting.
During the board’s closed session discussion, Jones said he did not consider the effort an attempt at voter suppression but a good-faith move to ensure only legal votes are counted in the state.
Earlier this month, True The Vote announced it would be submitting challenges to over 360,000 registered voters across the state. The organization enlisted the help of Derek Somerville of Forsyth County and Mark Davis of Gwinnett County to lead a statewide effort.
The organization also offered legal assistance to those bringing eligibility challenges in response to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia condemning the initiative.
The Cobb County Elections Board rejected a similar challenge last week, according to the ACLU.