No Small Stuff (cont.): Athens-Clarke County Addresses Voters Registered at Mailbox Store

Athens.City.Hall.jpg

[Image courtesy of dca.state.ga.us]

Big stories are starting to creep into the election headlines again, with lawsuits filed by Democrats in key states and an election policy speech by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that will reportedly call for an expansion of early voting, among other proposals – but across the country, the day-to-day work of election administration continues.

For example, in Athens, GA the election board is working through the followup to the discovery that several people were registered to vote at a local mailbox store. OnlineAthens has more:

Twelve people whose voter registration records indicate they are living in a UPS Store on Alps Road could have their registrations challenged by Athens-Clarke County elections officials.

The 12 people are among 20 registered voters whose claims of residency at 196 Alps Road, the address for the Beechwood shopping center.

The multiple uses of that single address attracted the attention of the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections office during its most recent “street audit,” a process by which elections officials ensure that individual voters are assigned to the correct combination of local, state and federal electoral districts.

Unlike a similar story in Minneapolis last year, there doesn’t seem to be any allegation that these registrations are improper; rather, the County is working through the process of investigating and resolving the registrations at issue:

Elections officials don’t suspect anything nefarious in the residency claims, surmising that the voters use the mailbox services at the UPS Store in the shopping center, and used that address rather than the required residential address on their voter registration forms.

Athens-Clarke County Elections Supervisor Gail Schrader acknowledged last month that votes could have been cast by the people claiming the 196 Alps Road address, because there would not necessarily have been any way for poll workers to differentiate it from a residential address, but she also noted that the small number of voters involved would not have had any effect on election results.

Last month, the elections board sent letters including a new voter registration form to the 20 voters, and at Tuesday’s board meeting, Schrader said eight of the cases had been resolved, most of them through voters simply changing their registration addresses.

In one case, elections officials discovered that the voter was a convicted felon, who was subsequently dropped from voter rolls, and in another case, a registration was canceled because the voter had been inactive for some time.

Schrader went on to tell the board Tuesday that additional letters had been sent to the 12 voters whose situations remain unresolved.

Given the storm that is re-gathering nationally over election policy – as it inevitably does in the run-up to a presidential election – I still think stories like this one are important for a few reasons. First, they illuminate how local election boards constantly deal with challenges like this in the day-to-day conduct of their duties. Second, they demonstrate how much of this work ends up being done without litigation and/or partisan rhetoric. And finally, stories like Athens’ are proof that election administration operates outside of the whirl of policymaking and litigation that so often grabs the headlines.

Athens-Clarke’s “UPS problem” may seem like small stuff when compared to other headlines – but as we’ve seen time and again in this field, there is no small stuff when it comes to managing elections.

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