Georgia elections official resigns over misidentified voters

The Georgia Secretary of State’s election director resigned Friday after “a technical error” resulted in nearly 8,000 voters being transferred from “inactive” to “canceled” status six days after a key internal deadline in the run-up to last year’s May 20 primaries.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp said in an interview that his office’s investigators found one potential voter who faced issues with the change. He said a young woman from Richmond County needed to re-register to vote when she visited her polling precinct, and that it was unclear if she had cast a ballot.

Kemp said that Linda Ford stepped down at his urging on Friday. She will be temporarily replaced by Ann Hicks, a former elections director who had retired from the agency.

“One is one too many,” Kemp said. “It was an honest mistake by a hard-working person and, unfortunately, she has to pay the price. Linda and I go back a long way. But I have a duty to uphold the integrity of the system, and this was one of those lines that were crossed. It can’t be tolerated.”

Kemp’s office does routine work to keep the voter registration roll up to date which involves a process to change the status of long-time inactive voters to “cancelled” status. The process was conducted on Feb. 19, 2015 and moved about 312,000 voters to the new status.

But an investigation by Kemp’s office revealed that six days later, another 7,690 voters were moved from inactive to canceled status. The change was conducted within 90 days of an election and after the deadline.

He said the process had nothing to do with the lawsuit over claims from a voter advocacy group that 40,000 voters were “missing” from the rolls.

“There’s no conspiracy. But if she remained, she would become a scapegoat,” said Kemp. “I have to make sure the people know that my biggest duty in the office is to maintain the integrity of the system.”