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Voter challenges - what's next?
110607 CHALLENGED BALLOTS
Voters whose registrations have been challenged stand in line to cast their ballots at the Honey Bowen Building Tuesday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

whats next in election

What's next in election?

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    Now that the city election is over, county officials need to decide what they are going to do with the 909 voter challenges filed by the Statesboro Citizens for Good Government two weeks ago. Specifically, they’ll need to determine what to do with the 93 challenged votes cast in District 5, which will ultimately determine the outcome of the race.
    Incumbent John Morris received 363 votes on Tuesday while his opponent, Travis Chance, received 328 votes. There were also six provisional votes cast, in addition to the 93 challenged votes. To retain his seat, Morris would need 33 of the possible 99 challenged and provisional votes. It is likely that the majority of the challenges will go to the student-backed candidate, Chance.
    Deputy Registrar Shontay Jones said they are trying to reconcile those on the list of people who voted and match them with the list of people who were challenged.
    “We’re just trying to be prepared,” said Jones. “We also have to get the provisional ballots cleared up within two days. We have to be concerned with the challenges, but we also have to get the provisional ballots taken care of due to the mandatory 48 hour window.”
    She said some of the issues that need to be cleared up regarding provisional ballots included those who thought they registered at the Georgia DMV but were not on the list of electors. If they are not found in DMV records, the ballot will not be counted. They also have to check a couple of addresses.
    In addition to the District 5 race, the District 3 race between incumbent Will Britt and challenger Harry “Bubba” Propes is still technically undetermined. Britt gathered 270 votes on Tuesday while Propes picked up 200, making a difference of 70 votes. With 78 challenged and provisional votes, it is unlikely Propes would pick up 75 out the 78 required to win.
    Charles Lester, who is representing several Georgia Southern students on behalf of Georgia Election Protection and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the challenges themselves are not really the issue in his opinion. He said that targeting students as a group is the real issue.
    “Now, if someone thinks that someone deliberately registered in a district they are not from, they’re clearly entitled to challenge — and I think there may be and probably potential criminal charges,” said Lester. “The problem I have with this challenge that [the citizens group] essentially challenged everybody they thought was a student — maybe not everybody — but really all they were saying is that this person is a student who’s temporarily here and shouldn’t be voting. I think it’s pretty clear under the law that you can’t discriminate against students. If a student resides in a place and intends that place to be his residence, that’s what the requirements are for registration.”
    Lester outlined what his group may do if the hearings move forward.
    “We could represent individual student 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.”
    Nancy Waters of the citizens group said they are not sure how the challenges are going to proceed, however, at this point, she feels will likely continue to move forward.
    “Well, let me just say this — we did not challenge these registrations because of votes, we challenged them because of residency,” said Waters. “So if we believe that the residency needs to be better defined then there is not reason for us to change the challenge.”
    Water was also not sure whether the group would drop the challenges in the Lewis/Queen race since the outcome is already decided.
    “I would need to talk to our attorney about that. I would just need his advice about that,” said Waters. “And, I’m not the only one to speak to — I’m just one of the group.”
    At this point, each group involved is not only waiting for the registrars to schedule the individual hearings, but also waiting to see how each other will react to the announcement of hearing being scheduled. Until then, the Statesboro election results in District 5 are up in the air.
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