Senate District 39 Voters Must Request Ballot Including Special Election
(APN) ATLANTA — Voters in Senate District 39 beware: If you are eligible to vote in Senate District 39 and voting in person, you must make a special request and remain vigilant, in order to receive a ballot that contains the Special Election.
Several voters have complained to at least two of the campaigns that they are not receiving ballots containing the District 39 Special Election, even though the voters are eligible to vote in the race.
The problem seems to stem from the unusual circumstances surrounding the Special Election.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Former State Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) stepped down from her State Senate seat to run as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress for Georgia’s Fifth U.S. Congressional District, when the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) passed away.
Because Nikema Williams had already qualified and been elected as a Democratic nominee for State Senate District 39, the seat for which she was the incumbent, when U.S. Rep. Lewis passed away, the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger called the Special Election.
Only Democrats are eligible to participate in the Special Election for Senate District 39. This is because no Republicans attempted to run for the seat in the 2020 Primary Election when it originally took place; and no independents or third party candidates attempted to collect signatures to appear on the ballot.
Normally, Democratic voters would have it on their minds to request a Democratic ballot when voting in a Primary Election. Republican voters would likewise be looking to request a Republican ballot.
However, this is not a Primary Election. This is a General Election that happens to be taking place at the same time a Special Election.
That is why many Democratic voters appear not be requesting a District 39 ballot.
[Also, Georgia is an “open primary” state, meaning that one does not have to be a Democrat to request a Democratic Primary ballot, for example.]
“Every voter who receives a ballot should be able to vote in every election they are eligible to vote in,” Zan Fort, candidate for District 39, and son of former State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), at a press conference today outside the State Capitol.
“We have gotten complaints from voters who are having to argue for long periods with poll workers in order to get a ballot with the 39th District Election on it,” Zan Fort said.
“Some are able to get a complete ballot. Others walk away after extended debate with poll workers,” Fort said.
“Many if not most 39th District voters do not know to request a ballot and walk away not knowing they have been deprived of the right to vote in the 39th District Election,” he said.
She said that as of Tuesday, October 13, 2020, according to Vote Builder, proprietary software that aggregates public and private records, approximately fifteen thousand voters in Senate District 39 had participated in Early Voting.
Approximately, over seventy percent of Senate District 39 voters are Democrats, she said, meaning at least about ten thousand of the voters should have received ballots including Senate District 39.
However, only approximately five thousand voters received Democratic Primary ballots, according to Pritchett, as of Tuesday. This is a drop-off rate of about fifty percent.
“I would describe it as outrageous. Because the voters do not deserve this,” Pritchett said.
“For the people who are not aware that they have to ask for a special ballot, they will be disenfranchised. That creates irreparable harm to them. This will only result in a challenge that will be a legal matter,” Pritchett said.
“These polling workers are giving people the ballots they want to give them,” she said, adding that at least one voter complained to her that he specifically requested a ballot containing District 39 and still did not receive one.
APN obtained a redacted photograph of one voter complaint.
APN’s News Editor, the present writer, also a District 39 voter, went to vote yesterday at State Farm Arena to see what would happen.
As it turns out, some, but not all, tables where voters check in seem to have a flyer advising voters about Senate District 39.
When completing paperwork to vote, APN’s News Editor received a form to complete with certain required information highlighted. The required information included date of birth, name, and address.
There were boxes on the form to select Democratic, Republican, or General Election, but the line containing those boxes was not highlighted.
The poll worker stated that is was not necessary to complete that part of the form; and that whatever was selected on the form would have no impact on what ballot a voter would receive. The poll worker insisted that voters are asked a subsequent question orally to determine whether they would receive a District 39 ballot.
The candidates say they do not believe that the poll workers are consistently asking people whether they wish to participate in District 39.
Even if it were true and consistent, then Fulton County, and perhaps the State of Georgia, seems to have created an unequal voting scheme with respect to absentee ballots versus in-person ballots.
That is, the selection of a similar box on the Absentee Ballot Request Form seems to determine whether or not an absentee voter received a ballot containing the District 39 Special Election. But, according to Fulton County, the selection of said box does not matter. Absentee ballot requesters are typically not given an opportunity to orally answer questions about what ballot they want.
Also, a person filling out an absentee ballot application is probably more likely to answer all the questions on the form, than someone receiving a form in-person with only certain questions highlighted for verification. Therefore, in general, it seems like absentee voters have been more likely than in-person voters to receive ballots containing Senate District 39.
The Secretary of State’s Office did not answer several phone calls placed from APN on this morning, October 15, 2020.
The other candidates for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 39 include Sonya Halpern, the wife of political operative Daniel Halpern, who helped Kasim Reed get elected Mayor of Atlanta in 2009 and 2013; and Jo Anna Potts.
Senate District 39 includes much of the City of South Fulton; part of Union City; part of College Park; a large portion of East Point; and several neighborhoods in Atlanta including West End, Cascade Heights, Adams Park, Venetian Hills, Audubon Forest, Home Park, Midtown, Ansley, Sherwood Forest, and part of Buckhead.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2020)