by Robin Kemp
The Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration will begin the statewide Risk Limiting Audit at 9 a.m. on Friday, November 12 at the Clayton County Police Department Headquarters, 7911 North McDonough Street, Jonesboro. The public is welcome to observe.
The Clayton Crescent filed an Open Records Request with the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration to find out who was authorized to observe polling in Clayton County.
We received 206 letters, which were sent by party officials to Clayton County Elections Superintendent Shauna Dozier “on or before October 31, 2020, at least three days prior to the election, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-408(b)(1).”
The letters identify each poll watcher by name, address, party, and the precincts they are authorized to observe. Some letters applied only to local precincts; others gave statewide access. Some letters gave permission to observe early voting; others authorized poll watchers for Election Day and any runoffs. Nearly all listed the poll watcher’s home address; several listed a Buckhead office building, in care of the Georgia GOP, as those poll watchers’ address.
The Clayton Crescent compiled a list of all names, political parties, assigned precincts, and hometowns (where given) from those 206 letters. Some people had more than one letter–for example, someone might have one letter for early voting and another for Election Day and any runoffs. (We chose not to list home addresses, although those are public record.) You can search and sort that information below:
Under Georgia elections law, according to Raffensperger’s office, “poll watchers shall in no way interfere with the conduct of the election. Poll watchers are prohibited from talking to voters, checking electors lists, using photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, or using cellular telephones. Poll watchers are also prohibited from participating in any form of campaigning while they are behind the enclosed space. Further, no more than two statewide poll watchers of a particular party may be in the same polling place simultaneously.”
Each candidate on the ballot may submit the name of one person to watch each polling place during early voting, Election Day, and any runoff. The same is true for each independent candidate or candidates in a nonpartisan (e.g., judges) race. Each political party or body can submit no more than two names per precinct.
For statewide races, each party, political body, and nonpartisan candidate running for a state office can submit the names of 25 poll watchers who are allowed to go into any precinct in Georgia. Independents can designate two watchers per precinct and nonpartisan candidates can send one. However, only two from any group can be in one polling place at the same time under Georgia law–not more than two.
Whether those same rules apply to voting tabulation centers, like the one in Clayton County to which a dozen or more GOP poll watchers flocked on November 5 and 6 is unclear. Based on the letters sent to Clayton County, it would appear that, under state law, no more than four GOP poll watchers–two from the Georgia GOP and two from Clayton County Georgia Republican Party–would have been allowed in the Clayton County tabulation center. However, tabulation notices invite “members of the public” to observe the count.
Here is what Georgia law says poll observers can and cannot do:
“Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, a poll watcher may be permitted behind the enclosed space for the purpose of observing the conduct of the election and the counting and recording of votes. Such poll watcher shall in no way interfere with the conduct of the election, and the poll manager may make reasonable regulations to avoid such interference. Without in any way limiting the authority of poll managers, poll watchers are prohibited from talking to voters, checking electors lists, using photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, using cellular telephones, or participating in any form of campaigning while they are behind the enclosed space. If a poll watcher persists in interfering with the conduct of the election or in violating any of the provisions of this Code section after being duly warned by the poll manager or superintendent, he or she may be removed by such official. Any infraction or irregularities observed by poll watchers shall be reported directly to the superintendent, not to the poll manager. The superintendent shall furnish a badge to each poll watcher bearing the words “Official Poll Watcher,” the name of the poll watcher, the primary or election in which the poll watcher shall serve, and either the precinct or tabulating center in which the poll watcher shall serve or a statement that such poll watcher is a state-wide poll watcher. The poll watcher shall wear such badge at all times while serving as a poll watcher.”
Several of the observers at The Bunker on November 5 and 6 alleged that they had seen as-yet unsubstantiated “irregularities.”
During that count, The Clayton Crescent witnessed:
- Observers packing the designated area to the point where they were repeatedly prompted to stay within the marked are on the floor, as well as to not lean over the line onto a table adjacent to the designated observation box where blank duplication ballot log forms had been stacked
- A member of the GOP wearing a party pin on his lapel inside the tabulation location
- Several observers carrying campaign cards for Sen. David Perdue
- Only one observer, Joshua Rigsby, wearing what appeared to be a county-issued official poll watcher badge
- An observer who told others, “They’re gonna kick me out of here,” then ran to one door of the tabulation room, shooting cellphone video; when an election official and a Clayton County Police officer told her to leave, she ran to the other door and continued shooting video before she was ordered out. Earlier, The Clayton Crescent had asked the woman whom she was with. She responded, “I’m with him.”
- Rigsby telling a colleague, “Just having this many people deters this kind of thing.”
- An unidentified observer who had told Rigby that he thought he had seen “commingling” of ballots, when asked to describe exactly what he had seen, told The Clayton Crescent, “I would prefer not to make any statements.”
Rigsby’s name was not among the letters provided to The Clayton Crescent by the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration. He told The Clayton Crescent that he lives in Fayetteville and graduated from Clayton State University, where he studied political science. Rigsby has published opinion pieces in the Fayetteville Citizen and Fayette County News.
On Thursday, The Clayton Crescent and a crew form the British Broadcasting Corporation saw Rigby and at least one other poll watcher, who had been with the GOP contingent on November 5-6, outside a Clayton County building where training for the recount was to have taken place . Rigsby declined to comment, referring reporters to an unnamed GOP media contact.
For an idea of how the tabulation process works, here’s a story from WSB about observers watching tabulations in Fulton County. Any ballot that requires adjudication–the process by which a Democrat and a Republican together decide what a voter’s intent was if a ballot marking can’t be scanned–goes through that process before it ever reaches tabulation, which is the official counting process.
Throughout Thursday, Clayton County elections officials were not answering calls for information as to why an announced training had been postponed and when it might be happening. The Clayton Crescent was able to get through but was told to check the website every half-hour for updates. County elections officials also were performing Logic and Accuracy (L&A) testing on “ballot marking devices”–the state’s official name for its new voting-machine-tablet-printer-scanner-bin setup–in preparation for the December Senatorial runoff elections.
Once those races are over–and once any additional possible challenges that might require one or two more recounts are done, one for each Senate race–the Secretary of State delivers those results to Gov. Brian Kemp for final certificates of election and commissions that then go directly to the winning candidates.
Kemp has aligned himself with President Donald Trump, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and Sen. David Perdue against Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, based on the results of the Nov. 3 election, which gave Democrat Joe Biden a slight edge over Trump.
For his part, Raffensperger has traveled around the state, demonstrating the new ballot marking device (BMD) setup to the public, running television ads throughout the campaign season touting Georgia’s “Secure the Vote” efforts, a campaign of its own, constantly reinforcing the notion that Georgia’s election system would ensure accurate results.
Here’s the public service announcement that ran amid candidate campaign ads during (oh, so many) commercial breaks over the past several weeks: