Georgia lawmakers surprised by errors in their voter registration info

State Sen. Elena Parent (left) and Sen. Nikema Williams confer during the morning session of the ninth day of the 2020 General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
State Sen. Elena Parent (left) and Sen. Nikema Williams confer during the morning session of the ninth day of the 2020 General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, January 31, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Three Georgia legislators recently discovered problems with their voter registration information, soon before the deadline to sign up to vote in the state's presidential primary.

Their issues show that even elected officials aren't immune to potential voting difficulties. The last day to register for Georgia's March 24 primary election is Monday.

One Democratic state senator’s address was incorrect. Another Democratic senator’s voting status was changed to “inactive.” A Republican representative’s address was changed from northeast Georgia to metro Atlanta.

"How is this possible?" asked state Sen. Nikema Williams of Atlanta, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. "I'm remaining vigilant on everything. If one voter's address shows up wrong, it's one too many."

In Williams’ case, she changed her address on the state’s voter registration website after moving in the fall. Williams took a screenshot of her online change-of-address form to prove she filled it out correctly in December, but county election officials apparently input one of the digits in the address incorrectly.

Williams only found out about the problem when she showed a voter how to check registration information online. Fulton County elections officials acknowledged the data entry error Thursday.

Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan rails against a bill that would outlaw most abortions in Georgia. Photo by Bob Andres
Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan rails against a bill that would outlaw most abortions in Georgia. Photo by Bob Andres

Jen Jordan, a Democratic senator from Atlanta, said she discovered that she had been declared "inactive" when she checked her registration information as Williams described her issue during a meeting of Fulton legislators last week. "Inactive" voters can still vote, but their registrations would be canceled if they missed two general elections.

“Whatever system we have in place isn’t working, and the problem with that is the result may be that it could end up having someone denied the ability to vote in this state,” Jordan said. “Clearly the system has a lot of holes in it.”

Jordan’s status changed to “inactive” because mail from Fulton election officials was returned as undeliverable, according to voting records. But Jordan said she has been receiving election mail, including a new precinct card after she moved in the spring.

Registration applications are processed by county election offices.

February 18, 2020 - Atlanta - Rep. Alan Powell, R - Hartwell, speaks during morning orders as the General Assembly returned for the 13th legislative day. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
February 18, 2020 - Atlanta - Rep. Alan Powell, R - Hartwell, speaks during morning orders as the General Assembly returned for the 13th legislative day. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

State Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, said someone changed his address to Decatur in August using an online system from the Department of Driver Services, which submits voter registration information to election officials through Georgia's automatic voter registration program.

State records show his address wasn’t corrected until last week.

“Every person has a right to vote,” Powell said, “but what comes with that right is the need to sign up and check your registration.”

Register to vote in Georgia

  • Check whether you're already registered online at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.
  • Register to vote online if you have a valid Georgia driver's license or identification card at registertovote.sos.ga.gov.
  • Print and mail a voter registration application if you don't have a Georgia driver's license or state ID. Paper applications can be printed from the Georgia secretary of state office's website at registertovote.sos.ga.gov/GAOLVR/images/reg_form.pdf. Registration forms are also available at libraries, post offices and county elections offices.