Cobb elections board sets 'probable cause' standard for voter challenges

·2 min read

Sep. 16—MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Elections voted this week to set the standard by which it'll consider dozens of efforts to remove voters from the rolls who have reportedly moved out of state.

After grappling with the voter challenges for month, Elections Director Janine Eveler's office will now be tasked with weeding them out.

The challenges were presented to the board earlier this summer by local residents, who'd culled data from VoteRef. The site is a third-party database which publishes voter data nationwide, and is currently under scrutiny for potential privacy law violations in New Mexico, the Associated Press reported.

The secretary of state's office periodically "purges" the voter rolls of inactive voters, but state law also allows residents to bring challenges forward.

The board in July punted on 152 such challenges, saying it didn't have enough information to evaluate them.

But a voter cannot be removed from the rolls within 90 days of an election, Board Chair Tori Silas said, and the original challenges became null on August 10. The challengers were required to refile their petitions under a different code section, which doesn't remove the voters from the rolls entirely but "flags" them for ineligibility to vote in the next election.

Any voter who is flagged for the November election will be required to cast a provisional ballot, and a hearing on their eligibility would be held between Election Day and the certification deadline.

The code section under which the new challenges were filed — 184 of them — has a lower burden of proof for the challenger, requiring only "probable cause."

Of the 184 challenges, 148 were submitted by Marietta resident Eugene Williams. Of those, Eveler told the board, 32 had already removed themselves from the voter rolls, and two were unable to be identified. Eighteen challenges each were submitted by Karyl Asta and William Lang.

Thursday, Silas said a record of a voter moving their address out of state didn't meet the probable cause threshold. The board voted 5-0 to add the standards that a voter must have registered and cast a ballot in another state for a challenge to go forward.

Silas and Eveler told the MDJ challengers are required to present information about a citizen's out-of-state voting activities as part of their challenge. Eveler's office will merely check that the information is accurate, and cross-reference it with Cobb's voter lists to determine if a voter should be "flagged."

Eveler said as of Thursday, 15 of Asta's 18 challenges were confirmed to have voted in another state and were flagged. All 18 of Lang's challenges were confirmed and flagged. Thirteen of Williams' challenges were confirmed and flagged, with the office waiting on additional documentation for the remaining challenges.