Eligibility of more than 13,000 voters challenged in Forsyth County

Early voting is underway in Georgia in advance of the May 24 primary.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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Early voting is underway in Georgia in advance of the May 24 primary.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Move comes under the state’s 2021 election law

With early voting already underway in the state’s May 24 primary, a Georgia man has challenged the eligibility of 13,609 voters in Forsyth County — about 8% of those registered to vote in the county.

The challenge appears to be the largest so far under the state’s new elections law.

Frank Schneider, who identified himself as a Forsyth County registered voter, filed the challenge with county elections officials late Tuesday. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

In an email to Mandi Smith, director of the Forsyth County Voter Registrations and Elections Department, Schneider said he had compared the county’s voting rolls with the National Change of Address database, maintained by the U.S. Postal Service.

Forsyth County officials have received several other voting challenges this year but none as large as the one filed this week.

Under the state’s 2021 election law, any voter can challenge the eligibility of as many voters in their county or city as they wish. County elections officials must then hold a hearing.

Smith said the challenge would be heard Thursday at a previously scheduled meeting of the county’s five-member Board of Voter Registration and Elections. Under the section of the law cited by Schneider, the voters in question would not be removed from the rolls but could be flagged for additional review if they attempt to vote in the primary.

The population of Forsyth County, an affluent and predominantly white exurb north of Atlanta, has grown rapidly in recent years. It has voted reliably Republican. Even so, there have been some early signs of flagging support for the GOP. In 2016, for instance, Republican Donald Trump won 70.5% of the vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton. In 2020, his support slipped to 66% against Joe Biden.

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, the Texas-based group True the Vote worked with the state GOP to try to disqualify 360,000 Georgia ballots based on the suspicion the voters might have moved. Bipartisan county election boards found few illegitimate voters afterward, rejecting a few dozen ballots statewide after Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs in January 2021.

In an email Wednesday, True the Vote said it was not involved with the Forsyth County challenges and provided no comment on them.

The Georgia-based voting rights group Fair Fight Action decried the challenges in Forsyth as “the latest iteration of the Republicans’ voter suppression tactics.”

“County election officials should reject frivolous challenges that are contrary to federal law, and the Secretary of State should provide county elections administrators with the training, financial, and policy support they need to run elections where all eligible voters are able to register to vote, cast their ballot, and have that ballot counted,” Fair Fight Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid said in a statement.


What’s next

The five-member Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections will consider a challenge questioning the eligibility of more than 13,000 of the county’s registered voters at a hearing Thursday at 6 p.m. The challenger, Frank Schneider, must be present. The board could vote that there is probable cause to uphold the challenge. That would mean that the voters must answer the grounds of the challenge before voting. If the board finds there is not probable cause, it could dismiss the challenge.