Oct 13, 2022 - Politics

Georgia Secretary of State corrects guidance on in-person voter challenges

Illustration of a white podium changing into a voting booth and then changing into three campaign signs, over a divided red and blue background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Secretary of State sent corrected guidance Thursday to county elections officials to make clear that challenges to voter eligibility cannot happen in person at polling places.

State of play: The new instructions followed a Tuesday bulletin that stated voters' eligibility "may be challenged by another voter at the time of voting."

  • Officials now say that was an error.

Why it matters: Under Georgia law, voters are allowed to challenge fellow voters' eligibility in writing. Democrats argue the original guidance violated the law by paving the way for in-person challenges at polling places.

What's happening: AME Bishop and voting rights advocate Reginald Jackson decried the original guidance at a press conference at the state capitol Wednesday. "What kind of a debacle is this?" Jackson said.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Party of Georgia told Axios Thursday morning that they had planned to sue the Secretary of State over the original guidance but are standing down after the correction.

Between the lines: While eligibility challenges have been legal in Georgia for more than a decade, the state's 2021 Republican election law added an additional line specifying voters may challenge an unlimited number of other voters.

  • The voting policy group Fair Fight Action estimates 80,000 voters have been challenged in Georgia this year and said challenges in at least one suburban county have disproportionately implicated people of color.

What they're saying: Blake Evans, the state elections director who wrote the original Official Election Bulletin, said in a statement to Axios that he realized it was inaccurate after receiving questions about it Wednesday.

  • "In-person voter challenges at polling places are not allowed. We regret the error and are issuing updated guidance," he said.
  • "We're glad to see the Secretary of State stand down from this latest illegal attempt to disenfranchise voters, and we are continuing to closely monitor the situation to ensure legal action is not needed," DSCC communications director David Bergstein told Axios in a statement.

Zoom out: Marc Elias, a national election lawyer representing the committee, said that Georgia's voter challenge situation stands apart from other states: "We’re seeing an increase in mass challenges. But I don’t think there has been a state that has seen as many as we’ve seen in Georgia."


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