In the months leading up the Nov. 6 election, there were already telltale signs that Athens-Clarke Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee was not reading the tea leaves as to the expectations of the residents of Clarke County. The Economic Justice Coalition, a local organization committed to voter registration year-round, had made repeated trips to both comprehensive high schools to sign up eligible voters. But when Board of Elections member Jesse Evans sought to establish a one-day early voting site at Cedar Shoals High School, he was told by Sosebee that a two- to three-month lead time was not sufficient to make that happen.
At its October meeting, the five-member Board of Elections asked for four days of early voting to be extended into the evening: two at the Board of Elections office and two in the Clarke County Library, if permission could be gained from the library staff. But when early-voting hours were announced, only two days of extended hours at the library were provided. When I asked Sosebee about this, she expressed concern about downtown parking and a staffing issue. Of course, it was pointed out to her that parking downtown at dinner time would be easier than during the day. As to the staffing issue, she was reminded that, at that October Board of Elections meeting, she said she had the staff to do the job.
These decisions made by Sosebee only added to the long lines that many early voters experienced. To add insult to injury, Flagpole quoted her as saying, “Two hours shouldn’t have turned people away.”
Fast forward to Election Day. Combining of precincts at Whit Davis Elementary, Gaines Elementary and Whitehead Road Elementary again left long lines at the polls. This was followed by a botched process of counting the votes. Sosebee explained to me a week after Election Day that the absentee ballots were first counted the day of the election by temporary staff and counted again the next day by her permanent staff. There was a two-vote discrepancy that she said was due to temporary staff not following her instructions.
The following week, voters in eight precincts petitioned for a recount. The Secretary of State’s office followed up by requiring a recount for the entire county. Over the two-day period that this was done, a much larger discrepancy in the absentee ballot count was discovered. According to the Clarke County Board of Elections website, 54 fewer absentee ballots were found to exist. I strongly challenge this. When comparing precinct by precinct, I count a decrease of 79 voters.
An additional discrepancy is the number of provisional voters in the county. When I asked for a complete list of provisional voters, 218 were provided. However, the Board of Elections has since claimed 219.
In her defense, I can say that Sosebee has always provided me the information I have requested and has consistently answered my questions. But this pattern of discrepancy by her office continued even in the total number of votes reportedly cast in Clarke County. According to the Secretary of State’s office, the number was 43,500. However, if you count the totals precinct by precinct, the ballot total was 43,444. Hopefully, the Board of Elections will question these discrepancies.
Davis is a member of the Economic Justice Coalition and serves on the Clarke County School Board.