Athens Board of Elections Meeting Reviews Peabody Awards Event

Athens-Clarke County’s Board of Elections reported in a recent meeting the outcome of the voting registration booth at the University of Georgia’s Peabody Award event March 30.

Students arrived in the Tate Theater to get a sneak peak of HBO-produced shows and movies including early previews of the season premieres for Game of Thrones, Veep and the film Silicon Valley.

“We got a call from somebody with the Peabody Awards,” said Administrative Assistant Wanda Raley. “They called and asked that we set up a voter registration booth with their Veep presentation.”

The Board of Elections set up the booth at the event to tie in with Veep, a political comedy show. The booth attracted a handful of registrations during the event.

“A lot of people thought we were a prop,” Raley said. “But we did get a lot of comments.”

The regular monthly meeting of the board was held Tuesday. Supervisor of Elections and Voter Registration Gail Schrader met with board members Charles Knapper, E. Walter Wilson, and Alison McCullick for a brief update on the voters of the county.

According to an activities report produced by the board, 59 percent of citizens within Athens are registered voters. This percent accounts for about 57,000 citizens who are at least 18 years of age.

In the month of March, 149 new voters were successfully registered, according to the report.

The board estimates that 70 percent of the citizens of Athens are eligible to register, meaning around 10,000 people may vote but for whatever reason do not.

Schrader presented another issue involving the county’s electronic voting equipment. The LED monitors require batteries that have an average lifespan of four to five years. Schrader asked the board to approve funds to replace the batteries early – before they potentially burn out on an important election day.

Knapper, Wilson and McCullick all agreed to approve the funds. The board has a budget of about $21,000 according to their internal report.

The Board of Elections is responsible for serving citizens “by being fair, nondiscriminatory and informed on all election laws and legislative changes” affecting the people, according to their official website. As such, the board is also responsible for finding and stopping instances of voter fraud.

Schrader described a situation that the office had discovered involving around 20 people sharing the same Alps Road address. On investigation, the location turned out to be a delivery address for P.O. Boxes.

Schrader went on to explain that she believes it to be an error on the part of the voters in filling out registration forms. The form asks for the person’s residential address, and she believes some mistakenly placed a delivery address in the space.

“We just want to be proactive to have something if they want to come to the board,” Schrader said.

The board is free to challenge these voters at any time, however the notification would have to be sent to the Alps Road address, and it is unclear whether this would be an effective means of contacting these people.

The board would also be unable to change any labels on the registration form itself, as these changes are carried out by the state.

In other business, the board is doing away with hard copies of voter information stored in their offices. Past voter information will now be kept digitally. To facilitate this change, the office will begin auditing their records.

“I think it’s going to be a really good change,” Schrader said.

Raley, who is helping to carry out the audit, agrees about the benefits of digital over physical.

“I actually think the process is working well,” Raley said. “It makes the person entering the data be more careful, because you know someone is going to come right after and look at it.”

Over the course of March, the elections office picked up $525 in fines from voters.

The meeting concluded with no unfinished business on the agenda. The next meeting will be May 12.

“This office is hugely well-run,” Thompson said after the meeting, explaining that despite few citizens attend the sessions, the board carries out its business effectively.

“It’s pretty quiet now,” Knapper said in reference to voting issues the board is dealing with. “Next year there will be issues to deal with, but this year has been pretty slow.”

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