370 voters may be in wrong district

Jan 13, 2018

Of the “1,110 issues” found in a comparison of voter registration and local GIS (geographic information system) data, about 370 voters are projected to be found to be registered in the wrong district.

According to the comparisons being done with the city and county GIS maps and elections registrations, Brian Hayes, with Griffin GIS, who also assists with the county’s GIS, told County Manager William Wilson Jr., in a Jan. 10 email, “of the 42,000 total records I could give an approximation that when I finished based on the patterns of current numbers you could end up having about 370 places in the both the city and county that are voting in the wrong district and need to updated.”

Hayes also told Wilson, in that email, “you will have approximately 2,285 places that need to have things like spelling corrected, or removed from the list as the house is no longer there.”

These emails were provided following an open records request from the Griffin Daily News.

In the City of Griffin, where his comparison work is completed, Hayes told Wilson, there were 455 comparisons that didn’t match, and within those, there were 38 (voters) listed in the wrong district. The “things,” Hayes explained in the email, or differences between the lists “are houses that have been torn down, spelling corrections, addresses that just can’t be found in GIS, Tax Assessors (data) or our billing system.”

Two candidates in the recent City of Griffin Board of Commissioners elections complained to Elections Supervisor Marcia Ridley and the Secretary of State about voters being listed in the wrong district. The state was investigating these complaints Ridley is conducting an audit, working with Hayes to compare the GIS and elections data.

Hayes is now working on the county commission districts, which are the same as the Board of Education districts, and those elections begin in May. As of Jan. 10, he was about halfway done, and had found 1,110 things that don’t match so far, and “within the 1,100 there are 166 voting in the wrong district.”

Hayes projected that out, based on the results so far to get the 370 that are in the wrong district and 2,285 corrections needed. Ridley, told the Board of Elections last Tuesday, that work is still ongoing, and was projected to be done by the end of the month.

She said the corrections to voter rolls would not impact the special election since it is county-wide, but would need to be done for the primary elections May 22, some of which are by district.

Ridley, on Thursday clarified that the qualifying dates for the non-partisan special election for clerk of courts on March 20, will be Jan. 22 to Jan. 24, ending at noon. She also corrected the spelling of a new hire in her office as Carla Rapp.

Qualifying fees for the clerk’s race are $1,894.94, and as Saturday, two candidates have notified the paper of their intent to run, Debbie Brooks and Kim Slaughter.

The Board of Elections also revisited the issue who is responsible for hiring, firing and discipline of the elections supervisor, but had not received the opinion from Legislative Counsel that the county had requested from State Representative David Knight. Some members of the board of elections felt that authority was with their board, based on the legislation.

That response from Legislative Counsel sent from Knight by email to Wilson on Dec. 15, was provided to the Griffin Daily News following an open records request. It was also sent to the Board of Elections members that same day, following the open records request.

Wilson said the response had also been sent to each of the county commissioners, on Dec. 15, to see if they wanted to make any changes to the local legislation to better clarify it, but as of this past Thursday, “there had been zero response from them,” Wilson said, of the county commissioners.

According to the opinion provided by Betsy Howerton of Legislative Counsel, “the 2003 legislation grants authority to the elections board to hire and fire the elections supervision, based on the phrase ‘shall serve at the pleasure of the board.’”

Howerton noted the board is charged with submitting one to three names to the county manager, but “it doesn’t appear that the county manager has any discretion to hire beyond that list (and if the list has only one name, (this is simply a perfunctory function). Although it is silent on the issue of discipline, it logically follows that the entity that can hire/fire could also discipline. However, that is not explicit and I can see how there may be some differences of interpretation of the language.”

Howerton cited language from other counties’ local legislation that could clarify the Spalding County legislation, if the county wanted to make a change.

That including local legislation from Heard County, where the county chairperson can hire the recommended person or reject all candidates and ask the board of elections for at least one new candidate. Heard County and Brooks County’s legislation also states the election supervisor “shall be subject to direction, evaluation, and corrective action by the county administrator.”

In Greene County and Turner County, the elections supervisor is appointed by the Board of Commissioners, “which will consider the recommendations of the board of elections and registration. The elections supervisor shall be appointed and removed by the board of commissioners in the same manner as department heads.”

In Monroe County, the elections supervisor shall be supervised by the board (of elections) “and shall be subject to removal from office by the board, with or without cause.”