Common Cause Georgia Statement on Voter Challenges

In the wake of press reports that an out-of-state advocacy organization is planning to sponsor large-scale voter challenges in every county in Georgia, Common Cause Georgia released the following:

Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis

Common Cause Georgia would like to remind the media and Georgia voters that our state is now part of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). This nationwide network shares voter registration data among states. It also provides US Postal Service and Social Security deaths data so that states can keep their voter rolls clean and up-to-date.

Common Cause Georgia would also like to remind those who are challenging voters that certain categories of voters have the legal right to vote from addresses where they do not currently live.

Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, military members and their families have the right to vote from a previous address, after they have moved because of active duty or service. The law also allows overseas citizens to vote from a previous address.

Under Georgia voter registration laws, college students who are eligible to vote can vote from their permanent, “home” addresses even if they are attending school elsewhere.

Common Cause Georgia looked through the lists of voters challenged yesterday in Muscogee and Cobb Counties. We saw a few diplomatic corps addresses. We saw many addresses that were clearly military: APO and FPO boxes, and on-base addresses. All the other addresses we looked up were located near a military base, and of course, many members of the military live “off base.”

We were not surprised by this: again, ERIC uses US Postal Service data – as well as other information sources – to enable Georgia to regularly clean our voter rolls. So when an outside organization compares voter roll data with US Postal Service change of address data, they’re just repeating what has already been done through ERIC.

Common Cause Georgia would also like to remind the media and the public that there will be a delay between when polls close on January 5 and when reliable election results are available. It is likely to take elections officials at least a few days to compile full results. Part of this delay is attributable to the time it takes bipartisan “adjudication panels” to rule on whether to count provisional ballots. The more provisional ballots, the longer the adjudication delay will be.

One consequence of challenging voters is that the challenged voters can only vote provisionally, and then their ballots must be individually adjudicated.

Finally, Common Cause Georgia reminds challengers that eligible voters retain the right to vote, even if they are challenged. Merely challenging a voter does not disenfranchise that voter. So each and every provisional ballot voted by a challenged voter must be properly adjudicated – and all of us must wait for that process to be completed before we can know the results of the Senate runoff elections. We are particularly mindful of votes cast by members of our military, military families and the diplomatic corps: these are people serving our country who maintain the right to vote even if they are not presently living in Georgia. In this important election, every valid vote must be counted – even if it has been challenged, and even if results take days to compile.