Lee named for potential electoral list problem

Lee named for potential electoral list problem
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

LEE CO., GA (WALB) - A national watchdog group is putting Georgia's Secretary of State on notice for a potential federal lawsuit, claiming ten counties in Georgia have more people registered to vote than can actually vote.

One of those counties is Lee County.

Lee's long-time Elections Director is alarmed by the accusation, and thinks the 2010 Census data Judicial Watch used is inaccurate.

"We do everything that we can here to protect the integrity of our voters list. That is paramount with Lee County, is to protect that integrity," said Veronica Johnson, Lee County's Election Supervisor.

Johnson pulled the active voter lists, starting in 2008.

"'08 was a presidential year, it was a historical presidential year, and our voter registration totals rose to an all-time high, because everyone voted in '08," said Johnson.

17,018 people voted in 2008 and Lee County's active voter total has grown to 18,784 as of Monday, April 17, 2017.

Lee is the rare South Georgia community that has enjoyed new home construction, a larger student population and other growth markers.

Johnson said, "It's hard to say those things can increase, but your voter rolls can't."

However, while the 2010 Census showed growth in Lee, the final count was roughly 6,000 people less than was projected, according to Johnson.

"We didn't have as much as we thought when the census numbers came in, so we really think we were under-counted in that time frame, so that would lead to us still being under-counted, so the comparison (Judicial Watch) are making is probably a little bit skewed."

In fact, Johnson said that she didn't get a mailed Census request for the 2010 count.

"We are required to fill out a form every ten years. A lot of people don't or a lot of people didn't receive them. I didn't personally receive one. I sought one out, but didn't receive one in the mail."

Johnson said the Census "guesses aren't quite accurate."

Johnson said when she received word from Judicial Watch regarding the accusation, "My immediate thought was the under-count in the census (was to blame), that was my gut reaction. It is easy to say something, but you have to have facts to back it up. I was perplexed when I read the letter."

Judicial Watch states there is "strong circumstantial evidence that these counties are not conducting reasonable voter registration record maintenance."

The counties named are Bryan, Columbia, DeKalb, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Lee, Marion, McIntosh and Oconee, mostly so-called "bedroom communities" for larger metropolitan areas.

"We do everything we can to keep our records as clean as possible. We do daily purges with people who have passed away, people who have notified us they have moved to another community or state. In odd number years, there are new list maintenance processes directed by the state as far as cleaning up people we have had no contact with, so our numbers try to stay as absolutely true as possible."

Johnson says her office does not divert from the prescribed list maintenance.

"Absolutely not. Any kind of list maintenance we do is all laid out in the Georgia Election Law Code book and given by directives from the Georgia Secretary of State Election Division."

Johnson worries most that claims like those being leveled by Judicial Watch will ultimately hurt voter trust and turnout.

"The last thing we want to do is give anybody any pause or concern that things aren't right in Lee County. Because, I can promise you that we strive daily to protect the integrity of the elections list."

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office said they have discussed the letter with Judicial Watch, and they are reviewing the allegations.

You can see the letter on the Judicial Watch website.

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