Georgia Walks Back Guidance on In-Person Voter Challenges

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Oct. 13, the Georgia Elections Division issued corrected guidance to county election officials on how to handle challenges to voters’ eligibility. This comes two days after the division sent guidance that appeared to create an additional process to challenge voters at polling places that didn’t conform with existing Georgia law and might have made it even easier to disenfranchise eligible voters than the law already allows.

Due to a provision in Senate Bill 202, Georgia’s 2021 omnibus voter suppression law, thousands of Georgia voters have already had their eligibility challenged this year. The Tuesday, now-incorrect guidance stated that voters can be challenged “at the time of voting,” while Georgia law requires challenges to be made “prior to the elector…voting at [their] polling place”. The guidance therefore seemed to go beyond Georgia law and allowed individuals to challenge voters who are in the process of voting in-person. Additionally, the Tuesday guidance suggested that if a voter is challenged at the moment they go to vote, it’s up to the poll workers to receive and respond to the challenge — even though the law delegates that responsibility to the county board of registrars — and placed the burden of proof to resolve the challenge on the voter. 

The Thursday clarification instead states, in bold and underline, that “Any voter challenge must be in writing, must specify distinctly the grounds of the challenge, and must be filed with the board of registrars” and that “Challenges cannot be filed with a Poll Manager or any poll worker.”

“In-person voter challenges at polling places are not allowed. We regret the error and are issuing updated guidance,” Blake Evans, state elections director and author of the guidance, told Axios. (The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Party of Georgia planned to sue, but will no longer after the correction.) This corrected guidance is good news for Georgia voters who will not need to worry about new avenues for disruptive voter challenges while voting at the polls.

Throughout the country, right-wing groups and activists are stepping up efforts to challenge the eligibility of voters and remove them from the voter rolls. This year in Georgia alone, 37,500 voters have been challenged in Gwinnett County along with over 30,000 in Forsyth County. This important clarification makes sure that it’s not even easier to do so.

Read the clarification here.