DeKalb County voters line up for early voting at the Voter Registration and Elections office in Stone Mountain, Monday, October 17, 2016. KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC

Groups fight DeKalb voter cancellations at mental health facility

Voting rights groups are challenging the cancellations of seven DeKalb County voters who used the address of a mental health business when they registered to vote.

The DeKalb elections board canceled the registrations of voters who listed the Peer Support, Wellness & Respite Center as their address because the center is a business, not a residence, according to the board’s Aug. 1 minutes. The center provides up to three days of housing for people who need a place to stay to avoid psychiatric hospitalization.

The voters’ registrations shouldn’t have been canceled based on preconceptions about what a “residence” looks like, according to a letter sent Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“It is morally wrong for government officials to judge where someone calls home,” said Sean Young, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia.

The property owner, who coincidentally is the county’s administrative coordinator for elections, responded with a letter saying no one lives at the Peer Support, Wellness & Respite Center. The letter from Mary Frances Weeks cites a state law that defines residence as a place of fixed habitation that a person doesn’t currently intend to move from.

The center’s director confirmed that no one lives there, Weeks said. The question about the voters’ addresses came from the city of Decatur.

The challenge to voter registration cancellations, on behalf of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda and the New Georgia Project, comes as election officials are preparing to remove ineligible voters from the rolls this year because they stopped participating in elections, moved, died or were convicted of felonies.

The state canceled more than 500,000 registrations the last time it updated voter lists in 2017.

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