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Citizens group may drop voter challenges

Group's attorney talking with Bulloch County attorney

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An attorney representing the Statesboro Citizens for Good Government requested county officials to hold off scheduling hearings for challenges to voter registrations as the group considers dropping the objections altogether.
    Bulloch County Attorney Jeff Akins confirmed the group's lawyer, Hubert Reeves, approached him Monday to discuss the possible withdrawal of all 909 challenges to voter registrations in Statesboro. The challenges are holding up the final outcome of City Council elections held Nov. 6.
    The group brought the challenges Oct. 22 to the Bulloch County Registrar’s office after about 2,200 new voters registered in Statesboro between Sept. 1 and Oct. 9. Around 85 percent were between 18 and 24 years old and are Georgia Southern students. Until the hearings are settled, races for Statesboro City Council seats in District 3 and District 5 cannot be certified until the status of the challenges is decided.
    Akins said it was important for the citizens’ group to decide quickly on its course of action, so the county can schedule and notify individuals about hearing dates, if necessary.
    "If we are going to move forward with the hearings, we don't need to wait," said Akins. "We'll want to get those notices out as soon as possible."
    Nancy Waters, one the organizers of the citizens group, said two group members – Sarah Hines and Karen Lavender – and her made the trip Monday to Millen to discuss a number of topics with Reeves, including withdrawing the challenges.
    "Jeff and Hubert are negotiating – that's where that stands," Waters said. "If we had already made a decision, I would tell you."
    Dropping the challenges would save the county a tremendous amount of time, considering officials believe only 20 hearings could be handled in a single day. With 909 total voter challenges, that would equate to 45 days of hearings – if every one of the challenged voters showed up. It also would save the county about $10,000 in expenses.
    Akins said if hearings do move forward, the board of registrars would hold its first hearings Nov. 27 and 29, with the rest of the hearings taking place Dec. 10, 12 and 14. The reason for the week in between is to make sure none of the challenged voters have a conflict with finals week at Georgia Southern.
    "We don't want to have them during finals," Akins said. "Since most of the challenges are probably students, we didn't want to unnecessarily inconvenience them."
    Since the race in District 5 is still undecided, the 93 challenged electors in that district would be the first hearings scheduled. After votes were counted last week, District 5 incumbent John Morris received 363 votes while his opponent, Travis Chance, received 328 votes.
    Charles Lester is representing several Georgia Southern students on behalf of Georgia Election Protection. He said last week his group may act as the students' counsel if the hearings move forward.
    “We could represent individual students in their hearings, and I suspect we will probably do that — come and advocate for them. I assume that we will try to see that each student that wants legal representation in the challenge has it.”
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