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Republican Challenges Thousands of Athens Voters’ Residency

With two U.S. Senate runoffs fast approaching, the chairman of the Athens Republican Party is seeking to have nearly 3,000 voters removed from the Athens voter rolls on the grounds that they may have moved away.

Gordon Rhoden sent the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections a list of voters he believes may no longer live in Athens. Rhoden said in a letter to election officials dated Dec. 16 that those names came up when Clarke County voter registration data was compared to the National Change of Address Registry.

The Board of Elections has scheduled a called meeting for Monday at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the challenge.

Similar challenges have been filed all over the state. A Texas-based conservative group called True the Vote is behind the challenges, WJXT in Jacksonville reported, and has said it’s working with Georgia residents in all 159 counties to challenge the residency of 364,000 voters. Georgia law allows any registered voter to challenge any other voter’s eligibility within the same county.

The Georgia Democratic Party’s executive director, Scott Hogan, called the voter challenges “blatant efforts to suppress the vote.” An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union said they violate federal law.

In Cobb County, the GOP chairman challenged the residency of 16,024 voters on the same grounds. It took less than 20 minutes on Friday for the Cobb County Board of Elections to decide the challenges there didn’t even warrant a hearing, according to 11 Alive.

Attorneys for Cobb County said a change of mailing address isn’t probable cause for disqualifying voters. There are legitimate reasons why someone might have mail forwarded while still retaining legal Georgia residency—for example, temporarily working out of state or caring for a loved one during the pandemic, one attorney said. State law also provides exceptions for military service or attending college out of state.

Rhoden appears to have cut-and-pasted the Cobb County letter. In one instance, his letter refers to Cobb rather than Clarke County. It also references 16,024 voters, which is the number challenged in Cobb County. The file accompanying Rhoden’s letter contains 2,948 names.

Want to know if you’re on the list? View a Google Doc with all of the names here.