Wright, Antoine, city referred; James to get letter of instruction
by Robin Kemp
For the second time in two weeks, the Georgia State Elections Board has referred two cases involving allegations of election law violations to State Attorney General Chris Carr’s office.
Two of the new allegations, one involving former Elections Supervisor Lois Wright and the City of Forest Park, and another involving Councilman Dabouze Antoine, were sent to Carr’s office.
A third allegation against Councilwoman Kimberly James resulted in a letter of instruction, which is essentially a written reprimand. Letters of instruction usually are issued for technical violations of election law.
Case 2017-075 involved what Chief Investigator Frances Watson said were “numerous” complaints about alleged violations during the 2017 municipal race. Investigators determined that several were unfounded.
The other allegations, which investigators said were substantiated and which they recommended the SEB send to the state attorney general’s office, include:
- An allegation that Councilman Dabouze Antoine had campaigned within 150 feet of the polling place on November 7, 2017
- An allegation that the City of Forest Park and then-Elections Supervisor Lois Wright failed to properly redact voters’ dates of birth on 587 absentee ballot applications released in response to an Open Records Request
- An allegation that Councilwoman Kimberly James submitted six absentee ballot applications for other people (including two of her adult children) without signing the section that shows she filled out the forms on behalf of the other voters
Forest Park City Attorney Mike Williams told the board that Wright is no longer Elections Superintendent and that “the city has long since instituted a series of reforms” regarding how it handles Open Records Requests. He asked the SEB either to issue the City of Forest Park a letter of instruction or to dismiss the case.
James’ attorney, Bruce Maloy, said James was on the call but that he was speaking on her behalf. He thanked the investigator “for making an extremely thorough report” on what he called “scattergun” allegations. He pointed out that none of the six people for whom James had submitted absentee ballot applications say that they had not wanted the requests made and that the documents James failed to sign were for applications, not the actual ballots themselves. He asked that James be issued a letter of admonition and that she not be referred to either the attorney general nor to the Clayton County District Attorney.
He also told the board that he had filed an Open Records Request for the investigative file and witness summaries in James’ case, but was denied on the grounds the documents were part of an open criminal investigation.
“I would point out this very same information was provided in Fair Fight v. Raffensperger,” Maloy said, adding, “so when the state wants to use it to their benefit, they do and when an Open Records Request is presented, it’s denied.”
The SEB voted to send James a letter of instruction. It also voted to forward the allegations against Antoine, Wright, and the City of Forest Park to Carr’s office.
Listen to the hearing:
Two other cases involving alleged wrongdoing in Forest Park elections were referred on February 17 to the state attorney general’s office.
Transparency note: one of those case involved this reporter, who is a registered voter in Forest Park and who was handed a flyer, by a poll worker inside the polling place, listing the benefits of voting for an item on the ballot that day. That case was referred to the attorney general’s office.
Other cases specific to Clayton County included:
- SEB Case No. 2017-082 City of Riverdale – Clayton County (Election Recount): The board, which had heard the case at its previous meeting, decided not to refer the case of a Riverdale woman, Doris Woods, who had set up a box on her front porch for her neighbors to fill out and drop off absentee ballot applications. Board Member Anh Le said she thought any letter of instruction should “be strongly worded.” Member David Worley said that because Woods had violated no statute, the SEB had no jurisdiction. Member Matt Mashburn said he concurred with Le.
- SEB Case No. 2018-077 Clayton County (List of Write-In Candidates): The board voted to send a letter of instruction to Clayton County Elections Supervisor Shauna Dozier after a copy of an old ballot, which did not list U.S. House District 13 write-in candidate Martin Cowen‘s name, was posted at one early voting location. County Attorney Chuck Reed told the board that, as soon as Dozier heard of the complaint, she immediately had the single old ballot removed and correct ballots placed at all six early voting locations. Elections and Registration has since set up a ballot-checking system, Reed said: one team prepares the ballot, then two teams of two people each verify the information by comparing it to the list of qualified write-in candidates on the Secretary of State’s website and other sources. He added that Cowen did not appear to have lost any votes as a result of the mistake. (Cowen got 93 votes, according to Clayton County election records.) Dozier was on the call and was available to take questions but the board had none.