Fulton County’s plan to flag nearly 1,100 voters of questionable residency and make them use paper ballots would violate state and federal law, a state elections official has warned.
The county’s interim elections director, Sharon Mitchell, responded to the secretary of state’s office that her department will abandon that plan and let the voters use touch-screen machines, like most everyone else, according to an email exchange obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hundreds of them are believed to still be registered at now-demolished Atlanta public housing projects, and the department wanted to guard against voter fraud.
The list of suspect voters came out of a county investigation into the problem, which Mary Norwood brought up after she lost a 2009 mayoral runoff against victor Kasim Reed. While many on the list have addresses at vacant lots, an AJC analysis found more than 140 people whose addresses, Fulton property records indicate, are private residences.
Under a system described by Mitchell and board members, if any of them showed up to vote, they would have been given provisional ballots and would have had until the following Friday to bring in documents proving they live where they say they live, such as utility bills or bank statements.
Elizabeth Poythress, president of the League of Women Voters of Georgia, said that would have thrown up hurdles to legitimate voters.
“I think they are doing the right thing,” she said of un-flagging those on the list. “At this point in the game, they should not be taking anybody’s right to vote away from them.”
The emails show State Elections Division Director Linda Ford advised Mitchell against it.
“There are prescribed procedures and requirements in federal law, the Georgia election code and rules of the State Election Board governing notification of voters and changing voter status in the voter registration database,” Ford’s email said. “Any action taken by your office must be in full compliance of the law.”
Fulton elections board member Stan Matarazzo said he’ll keep track of how many people on the list cast votes Tuesday from vacant lots. Federal law forbids purging voters within 90 days of a federal election, and the next purge will likely happen early next year.