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News from Georgia: Voting and Privacy



May 5, 2009 By

Voter Registration Cards Dumped

Secretary of State Karen Handel recently announced that the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections has signed a Consent Order with the Georgia State Election Board, admitting to the unlawful disposal of over 30 boxes of election-related documents in April 2007.

"The reckless behavior of Fulton County elections personnel violated the public's trust in the integrity of their county's elections procedures, and represents one of the worst cases to ever come before the State Election Board," Handel said. "We will continue to closely monitor the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections, to ensure that they have taken the appropriate steps so that something like this never happens again."

The discarded boxes contained approximately 75,000 voter registration application cards, 24,000 voter registration precinct cards, and other voter documents. Many of the cards and documents contained personal information on active voters, including full names, address and Social Security numbers. Upon further investigations, investigators discovered additional violations of state law. The Secretary of State's Office of Inspector General, acting on a call from a concerned citizen, recovered the boxes from a construction dumpster located at Atlanta Technical College. The Secretary of State's Office immediately initiated a join investigation with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fulton County Solicitor's Office.

The Consent Order requires the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections:

  • To conduct semi-annual audits to monitor its document retention programs, in cooperation with the Secretary of State's Office;
  • Establish a remedial fund, a portion of which will pay for additional third party audits;
  • Continue efforts to contact voters whose registration cards or voter registration applications were destroyed; self-report incidents where election documents that carry a statutory retention period are found to be missing;
  • Pay investigative expenses of $19,624 incurred by the Secretary of State's Office;
  • Pay $100,000 into the remedial fund; and
  • Pay an additional $20,000 direct civil penalty.

Project VoteSafe

Secretary Handel also recently announced the enactment of Project VoteSafe, a program to ensure that individuals under protective orders or residents of family violence centers are protected from having their addresses exposed during the voting process. Governor Sonny Perdue signed the enabling legislation, HB 227, into law on May 1.

Project VoteSafe, sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey, applies to citizens who have received a protective order issues by a court and to residents of family violence shelters. These individuals would be eligible to confidentially register to vote without their voter registration information becoming available as public information.

"I want to thank Governor Purdue for signing this important legislation and Representative Dempsey for her leadership in passing Project VoteSafe," Secretary Handel said. "Georgia citizens should not fear for their safety while trying to exercise their right to vote."


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