Private voter verification tech approved in Republican Georgia county

EagleAI software seeks ineligible voters who are still registered
Mariama Dabo casts her ballot at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Mariama Dabo casts her ballot at Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

An election board in a conservative Georgia county voted this month to buy software called EagleAI to identify potentially outdated voter registrations, despite warnings from voting rights groups that it could erroneously flag legitimate voters.

Columbia County will become the first government to use EagleAI, a private venture supported by Republican activists who have filed challenges against voters’ eligibility and Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who backed efforts to overturn then-President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020.

Election officials in the suburban area near Augusta said they will “beta test” EagleAI, which uses public records to find voters who might have moved away, appeasing conservatives’ concerns about the possibility that a voter who lives in another state could cast a ballot in Georgia.

EagleAI will supplement government-run voter registration updates, which this year canceled 189,000 registrations of voters who filled out change-of-address forms or whose mail was undeliverable. Georgia election investigators have found few cases of illegal out-of-state voting.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Elections Supervisor Nancy Gay said she will use EagleAI to send letters to voters who might have moved, and their registrations would only be removed if they return a cancellation form.

“It will just be a tool to research voter status and residency to help have an accurate list. I would love to see how many people EagleAI claims no longer live in Columbia County,” Gay said. “We still have to follow the parameters of the law: We can’t do anything without voter consent and voter signature.”

EagleAI has billed itself as a potential replacement for the Electronic Registration Information Center, a voter registration information sharing organization that serves 24 states, including Georgia. Nine Republican-led states have withdrawn from ERIC in response to conservatives’ beliefs that it’s biased and ineffective.

But EagleAI lacks access to private voter information that Georgia uses to verify invalid registrations, such as birthdates, driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers. Instead, EagleAI depends on voter lists, property records, tax data, obituaries and change-of-address information.

“The EagleAI software increases the risk of removing lawful voters at an unacceptably high rate,” said Kristin Nabers, state director for the voting rights organization All Voting Is Local. “Georgia’s counties must resist pressure from conspiracy theorists and refuse to partner with EagleAI. This software will bring more problems than solutions.”

The bipartisan election board in Columbia County, where 62% of voters supported Trump in 2020, voted 2-0 to begin using EagleAI next year. The county plans to pay EagleAI a $2,000 annual fee, and its agreement with EagleAI can be terminated at any time, Gay said.

Democratic board member Larry Wiggins said he’s not worried that EagleAI will cause problems, and it might help identify ineligible voters more quickly than existing government efforts to keep voter registration lists up to date.

“In our county historically, we go above and beyond the state minimum on contacting the customer,” Wiggins said. “We’re comfortable with what we’ve seen so far” from EagleAI.

Wiggins said EagleAI could also help election workers check voters’ information when their eligibility is challenged by conservative activists, as is allowed under Georgia’s election law passed two years ago. Since then, over 100,000 voter challenges have been filed across the state, but county election boards have rejected the vast majority of them.

Georgia Elections Director Blake Evans has said that EagleAI won’t be better than existing voter registration list updates, which already use death records, check for duplicate registrations and use government records to confirm when someone has moved.

Credit: University of Alabama

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Credit: University of Alabama

EagleAI CEO Rick Richards said the company’s technology will make voter registration list maintenance more efficient and comply with state and federal laws.

“EagleAI does not make any decisions or recommendations, nor does it have the ability to change the status of any registration,” said Richards, a retired doctor and entrepreneur. “EagleAI has no data of its own; rather, it improves the efficiency of the county voter list maintenance.”

Columbia County could begin testing EagleAI after this year’s primary elections and before the 2024 presidential election, Wiggins said.

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