A Gwinnett County poll worker hands a voter a sticker after casting their ballot during the Gwinnett County MARTA referendum special election at the Mountain Park Aquatic Center and Activity Building in Lilburn on March 19, 2019.
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Fulton elections: What the data shows about December’s voter cancellations

No county in Georgia had more people removed from voter rolls in December than Fulton County, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of new state data.

The four counties with the most voters had the most voters removed: Gwinnett County had 19,910 voters taken off, Cobb County had 20,075, DeKalb had 25,905 and Fulton had 41,821.

Fulton also had the highest percentage of voters removed, 5%. The percentage of registered voters removed from each county’s rolls, between 3.3% and 5%, was similar in Atlanta’s core counties. Combined, about 107,000 voters were removed in the four-county area. Voters were removed at a higher rate in the metro area, 4.2%, than statewide, 3.9%.

Removing members of the electorate from the rolls is sometimes called “voter purging” and in Georgia has sparked a debate along with lawsuits about what’s fair and safe.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed recent state data to get an idea of which voters were removed.


READ| Why Georgia secretary of state’s office removes inactive voters


Of the nearly 42,000 voters removed in Fulton, 16,384 removed were in non-Atlanta parts of the county.

Countywide, 45% of those removed identified as white, 31% were black, 2% were Hispanic and 2% were Asian or Pacific Islander. About 14% of registered Fulton voters were of an “unknown” race.

Using data from October, the Fulton electorate was 38% white, 40% black, 2% Hispanic, 3% Asian. About 18% of voters removed were of an unknown race.

Voters in younger age ranges were affected more often. Baby boomers represent 23% of the electorate and were 23% of voters removed in Fulton. Generation X voters were hit hardest; that age range comprised 27% of voters and 33% of those removed. Millennials were 35% of registered voters in October and 36% of those removed.

The state cancels voter registrations for three reasons: a person hasn’t voted in several years, they’ve filed change-of-address forms, or mail sent to them by election officials was returned as undeliverable.

About 52% removals in Fulton were due to people filing a change of address forms, suggesting they moved. Another 45% were removed who had not voted since before the 2012 presidential election and had no contact with state or local elections officials. Another 3% were put on the inactive list because election mail was returned as undeliverable.

Trey Kelly, chairman of the Fulton GOP, said he doesn’t think any group is affected more than another by the current system.

“As long as it’s enforced, it seems to be doing what it’s supposed to do,” he said.

Kelly told the AJC that he doesn’t understand why some Democrats wouldn’t want the most up-to-date voter lists possible.

Rep. David Dreyer, an Atlanta Democrat and head of the Fulton House delegation, said people with less means and younger voters are disproportionately affected by removals because they are more likely to change addresses between elections.

“It’s not the state’s job to make voting harder for individuals,” Dreyer said.

In January, there were 800,360 registered voters in Fulton County, said Rich Barron,  the county’s director of registration and elections.


READ| Why Georgia secretary of state’s office removes inactive voters

READ| Legislators asked to change Georgia voter purge law


Aside from Atlanta, the Fulton city with the highest amount of voters taken off the rolls was Roswell with 3,546 of its nearly 100,000 residents. The lowest was Mountain Park’s six voters, which is roughly 1% of the city’s population.

The state cancels voter registrations for three reasons: a person hasn’t voted in several years, they’ve filed change-of-address forms, or mail sent to them by election officials was returned as undeliverable.

In Fulton, 52% of those removed had filed a national change of address form to indicate they were moving. An additional 45% of the county’s removals were taken off the list because they haven’t voted or had any contact with the county elections board or Secretary of State’s Office for a number of years. And 3% were dropped after they were sent mail at their address on file, but it was returned as undeliverable.

AJC Newsroom Data Specialists Jennifer Peebles and Nick Thieme contributed to this story

ARE YOU REGISTERED? 

Voters can check online to see if their registration is active and their information current at https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do. Enter your first initial, last name, county of residence and birthdate to access your voter page. There, you can change your voter information, get an absentee ballot application and find directions to your polling place. 

If you are not registered, you can do so at https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov/. You must have your Georgia driver’s license number or state identification card number.


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About 309,000 names were set to be erased from Georgia’s list of registered voters Monday night, a mass cancellation that a federal judge allowed to move forward. (Credit: AJC file photos)

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