The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections struck down a challenge to remove nearly 8,000 voters from the county’s rolls before Georgia’s January 5 U.S. Senate runoff election.
“For the reasons I will discuss, I don’t believe there is probable cause to challenge these voters,” Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake said to open deliberations.
“First, the mere production of a voter registration date compared with the national change of address registry is not sufficient to establish probable cause,” he continued. “The list that the Board has been provided doesn’t show that the voters in the registration database are the same person as in the national registry.”
Two challenges, one from December 16, and the other from December 18, were filed by Chairman Gordon Rhoden of the Clarke County Republican Party. The first challenge related to the qualification 2948 voters registered for the Senate runoff. The second challenge related to another 4943 more voters registered to vote in the same race.
Rhoden contented that the nearly 8,000 voters were not eligible to vote in the runoff because they filed a notice of address change through the United States Postal Service, and they no longer resided in Georgia.
The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections was charged with determining whether “probable cause” existed to disqualify the voters.
Drake led the proceeding after Elections Board Chairman Jesse Evans opened the meeting by reading several public comments urging the board to strike down the challenge.
“Probable cause means the existence of such fact or circumstance which would create a reasonable belief that the accused person committed the act alleged,” Drake said before the Board’s deliberations began, noting that the bar for probable cause is higher than a simple rumor or suspicion.
He advised the Board that he did not believe probable cause existed to disqualify voters, and that if the Board did disqualify the voters, they might run afoul of the National Voter Registration Act.
Drake’s contention was that the lists provided to the Board were unreliable for determining whether the voters actually resided in Georgia.
“The mere fact that an individual’s name is on this list does not – I don’t believe from a legal perspective – establish probable cause in this matter,” he said.
Evans noted before the final vote that several organizations had contacted the Board, urging them to vote against Rhoden’s challenge.
The list was a who’s who of far-left groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, The Georgia League of Women Voters, and NAACP of Georgia, all of whom claimed that disqualifying the voters would not only amount to voter suppression, but might be against federal law.
After less than 20 minutes of deliberation, four members of the Board voted against Rhoden’s challenge, and one lone member, Patricia A. Till, abstained.
A total of just over 51,000 votes were cast in Clark County on November 3, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. The city of Athens, home to the University of Georgia, is located within the county. Almost 19,000 votes in the county were cast as absentees. More than 16,500 – about one-in-three – were cast before Election Day.
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