Fulton election board puts limits on voter eligibility challenges

Fulton County's election board voted 3-2 Thursday to establish rules about how to question the eligibility of voters.

Credit: File

Credit: File

Fulton County's election board voted 3-2 Thursday to establish rules about how to question the eligibility of voters.

The Fulton County elections board adopted rules Thursday requiring activists to show detailed evidence before questioning a voter’s eligibility, a step in anticipation of an expected wave of eligibility challenges.

The voter challenge procedures passed on a 3-2 vote over objections from the board’s Republican members, who said the requirements were poorly worded.

Activists across Georgia are recruiting volunteers to challenge voter registration eligibility under the state’s latest challenge law, which creates a path for those volunteers to question the voters who appear to have moved from the state.

The expected challenges will add to the more than 100,000 the state has seen since 2021, most of which have been rejected by county election boards.

The new procedures outline standards challengers must meet for the Fulton board to consider a challenge, such as the voter’s full name, address, birth year and grounds of the challenge.

While there’s no limit on the number of registrations that can be contested, challenges must be based on individual evidence against each voter. If the challenge meets all required guidelines, Fulton will schedule a hearing date.

Fulton’s rules come in response to a new state law that clarifies when voter challenges should be upheld, such as when someone registers in a different state or registers at a nonresidential address. Change-of-address information can be considered, but additional evidence is required, according to the law, Senate Bill 189.

Fulton isn’t alone in creating voter challenge procedures before the law takes effect July 1, said Teresa Crawford, a Democratic member of the board. Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth and Henry counties have all adopted voter challenge procedures.

The day before Fulton adopted the new plan, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia sent letters statewide to election officials providing guidance for upcoming challenges.

“Voter challenges have unfortunately been weaponized around the state to limit access to the ballot. We hope that our guidance will be helpful in ensuring a smooth election cycle for voters and our hardworking local elections officials,” said Caitlin May, a voting rights staff attorney for the ACLU of Georgia.

The Republican board members, Michael Heekin and Julie Adams, opposed the document’s wordy language.

Adams was steadfast in her opposition to the procedures developed over the past six months.

“I do not think that this passes the intent of the laws, and I think that we need more time,” she said.

Chairwoman Cathy Woolard largely agreed about the ungainly language in the voter challenge procedures but said it’s necessary.

She went on to criticize Republican state lawmakers, saying she does not believe lawmakers consider the public interest when it comes to voter challenges.

“I’m not sure it achieves the objective that people would want to see,” Woolard said. “I don’t think quite frankly … that they have any idea of what they’re talking about when they give us this guidance, because we have asked multiple times for them to consider the opinion of election administrators.”