2021 Georgia Code
Title 21 - Elections
Chapter 2 - Elections and Primaries Generally
Article 6 - Registration of Voters
§ 21-2-230. Challenge of Persons on List of Electors by Other Electors; Procedure; Hearing; Right of Appeal

Universal Citation: GA Code § 21-2-230 (2021)
  1. Any elector of the county or municipality may challenge the right of any other elector of the county or municipality, whose name appears on the list of electors, to vote in an election. Such challenge shall be in writing and specify distinctly the grounds of such challenge. Such challenge may be made at any time prior to the elector whose right to vote is being challenged voting at the elector's polling place or, if such elector cast an absentee ballot, prior to 5:00 P.M. on the day before the absentee ballots are to begin to be scanned and tabulated; provided, however, that challenges to persons voting by absentee ballot in person at the office of the registrars or the absentee ballot clerk shall be made prior to such person's voting. There shall not be a limit on the number of persons whose qualifications such elector may challenge.
  2. Upon the filing of such challenge, the board of registrars shall immediately consider such challenge and determine whether probable cause exists to sustain such challenge. If the registrars do not find probable cause, the challenge shall be denied. If the registrars find probable cause, the registrars shall notify the poll officers of the challenged elector's precinct or, if the challenged elector voted by absentee ballot, notify the poll officers at the absentee ballot precinct and, if practical, notify the challenged elector and afford such elector an opportunity to answer.
  3. If the challenged elector appears at the polling place to vote, such elector shall be given the opportunity to appear before the registrars and answer the grounds of the challenge.
  4. If the challenged elector does not cast an absentee ballot and does not appear at the polling place to vote and if the challenge is based on grounds other than the qualifications of the elector to remain on the list of electors, no further action by the registrars shall be required.
  5. If the challenged elector cast an absentee ballot and it is not practical to conduct a hearing prior to the close of the polls and the challenge is based upon grounds other than the qualifications of the elector to remain on the list of electors, the absentee ballot shall be treated as a challenged ballot pursuant to subsection (e) of Code Section 21-2-386. No further action by the registrars shall be required.
  6. If the challenged elector does not cast an absentee ballot and does not appear at the polling place to vote and the challenge is based on the grounds that the elector is not qualified to remain on the list of electors, the board of registrars shall proceed to hear the challenge pursuant to Code Section 21-2-229.
  7. If the challenged elector cast an absentee ballot and the challenge is based upon grounds that the challenged elector is not qualified to remain on the list of electors, the board of registrars shall proceed to conduct a hearing on the challenge on an expedited basis prior to the certification of the consolidated returns of the election by the election superintendent. The election superintendent shall not certify such consolidated returns until such hearing is complete and the registrars have rendered their decision on the challenge. If the registrars deny the challenge, the superintendent shall proceed to certify the consolidated returns. If the registrars uphold the challenge, the name of the challenged elector shall be removed from the list of electors and the ballot of the challenged elector shall be rejected and not counted and, if necessary, the returns shall be adjusted to remove any votes cast by such elector. The elector making the challenge and the challenged elector may appeal the decision of the registrars in the same manner as provided in subsection (e) of Code Section 21-2-229.
  8. If the challenged elector appears at the polls to vote and it is practical to conduct a hearing on the challenge prior to the close of the polls, the registrars shall conduct such hearing and determine the merits of the challenge. If the registrars deny the challenge, the elector shall be permitted to vote in the election notwithstanding the fact that the polls may have closed prior to the time the registrars render their decision and the elector can actually vote, provided that the elector proceeds to vote immediately after the decision of the registrars. If the registrars uphold the challenge, the challenged elector shall not be permitted to vote and, if the challenge is based upon the grounds that the elector is not qualified to remain on the list of electors, the challenged elector's name shall be removed from the list of electors.
  9. If the challenged elector appears at the polls to vote and it is not practical to conduct a hearing prior to the close of the polls or if the registrars begin a hearing and subsequently find that a decision on the challenge cannot be rendered within a reasonable time, the challenged elector shall be permitted to vote by casting a challenged ballot on the same type of ballot that is used by the county or municipality for provisional ballots. Such challenged ballot shall be sealed in double envelopes as provided in subsection (a) of Code Section 21-2-419 and, after having the word "Challenged,” the elector's name, and the alleged cause of the challenge written across the back of the outer envelope, the ballot shall be deposited by the person casting such ballot in a secure, sealed ballot box notwithstanding the fact that the polls may have closed prior to the time the registrars make such a determination, provided that the elector proceeds to vote immediately after such determination of the registrars. In such cases, if the challenge is based upon the grounds that the challenged elector is not qualified to remain on the list of electors, the registrars shall proceed to finish the hearing prior to the certification of the consolidated returns of the election by the election superintendent. If the challenge is based on other grounds, no further action shall be required by the registrars. The election superintendent shall not certify such consolidated returns until such hearing is complete and the registrars have rendered their decision on the challenge. If the registrars deny the challenge, the superintendent shall proceed to certify the consolidated returns. If the registrars uphold the challenge, the name of the challenged elector shall be removed from the list of electors and the ballot of the challenged elector shall be rejected and not counted and, if necessary, the returns shall be adjusted to remove any votes cast by such elector. The elector making the challenge and the challenged elector may appeal the decision of the registrars in the same manner as provided in subsection (e) of Code Section 21-2-229.
  10. Failure to comply with the provisions of this Code section by the board of registrars shall subject such board to sanctions by the State Election Board.

(Code 1981, §21-2-230, enacted by Ga. L. 1994, p. 1443, § 3; Ga. L. 1995, p. 8, § 1; Ga. L. 1998, p. 295, § 1; Ga. L. 1998, p. 1231, §§ 6, 30; Ga. L. 2000, p. 135, § 1; Ga. L. 2003, p. 517, § 22; Ga. L. 2005, p. 253, § 27/HB 244; Ga. L. 2010, p. 914, § 12/HB 540; Ga. L. 2012, p. 995, § 18/SB 92; Ga. L. 2019, p. 7, § 8/HB 316; Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 16/SB 202.)

The 2019 amendment, effective April 2, 2019, substituted "ballot clerk shall" for "ballot clerk whose vote is cast on a DRE unit must" near the end of the last sentence of subsection (a).

The 2021 amendment, effective March 25, 2021, in subsection (a), substituted "absentee ballots are to begin to be scanned and tabulated" for "election" near the middle of the third sentence and added the last sentence; and added subsection (j).

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 1/SB 202, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "This Act shall be known and may be cited as the 'Election Integrity Act of 2021."'

Ga. L. 2021, p. 14, § 2/SB 202, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "The General Assembly finds and declares that:

"(1) Following the 2018 and 2020 elections, there was a significant lack of confidence in Georgia election systems, with many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter suppression and many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud;

"(2) Many Georgia election processes were challenged in court, including the subjective signature-matching requirements, by Georgians on all sides of the political spectrum before and after the 2020 general election;

"(3) The stress of the 2020 elections, with a dramatic increase in absentee-by-mail ballots and pandemic restrictions, demonstrated where there were opportunities to update existing processes to reduce the burden on election officials and boost voter confidence;

"(4) The changes made in this legislation in 2021 are designed to address the lack of elector confidence in the election system on all sides of the political spectrum, to reduce the burden on election officials, and to streamline the process of conducting elections in Georgia by promoting uniformity in voting. Several examples will help explain how these goals are achieved;

"(5) The broad discretion allowed to local officials for advance voting dates and hours led to significant variations across the state in total number of hours of advance voting, depending on the county. More than 100 counties have never offered voting on Sunday and many counties offered only a single day of weekend voting. Requiring two Saturday voting days and two optional Sunday voting days will dramatically increase the total voting hours for voters across the State of Georgia, and all electors in Georgia will have access to multiple opportunities to vote in person on the weekend for the first time;

"(6) Some counties in 2020 received significant infusions of grant funding for election operations, while other counties received no such funds. Promoting uniformity in the distribution of funds to election operations will boost voter confidence and ensure that there is no political advantage conferred by preferring certain counties over others in the distribution of funds;

"(7) Elections in Georgia are administered by counties, but that can lead to problems for voters in counties with dysfunctional election systems. Counties with long-term problems of lines, problems with processing of absentee ballots, and other challenges in administration need accountability, but state officials are limited in what they are able to do to address those problems. Ensuring there is a mechanism to address local election problems will promote voter confidence and meet the goal of uniformity;

"(8) Elections are a public process and public participation is encouraged by all involved, but the enthusiasm of some outside groups in sending multiple absentee ballot applications in 2020, often with incorrectly filled-in voter information, led to significant confusion by electors. Clarifying the rules regarding absentee ballot applications will build elector confidence while not sacrificing the opportunities for electors to participate in the process;

"(9) The lengthy absentee ballot process also led to elector confusion, including electors who were told they had already voted when they arrived to vote in person. Creating a definite period of absentee voting will assist electors in understanding the election process while also ensuring that opportunities to vote are not diminished, especially when many absentee ballots issued in the last few days before the election were not successfully voted or were returned late;

"(10) Opportunities for delivering absentee ballots to a drop box were first created by the State Election Board as a pandemic response. The drop boxes created by rule no longer existed in Georgia law when the emergency rules that created them expired. The General Assembly considered a variety of options and constructed a system that allows the use of drop boxes, while also ensuring the security of the system and providing options in emergency situations;

"(11) The lengthy nine-week runoffs in 2020 were exhausting for candidates, donors, and electors. By adding ranked choice voting for military and overseas voters, the run-off period can be shortened to a more manageable period for all involved, easing the burden on election officials and on electors;

"(12) Counting absentee ballots in 2020 took an incredibly long time in some counties. Creating processes for early processing and scanning of absentee ballots will promote elector confidence by ensuring that results are reported quickly;

"(13) The sanctity of the precinct was also brought into sharp focus in 2020, with many groups approaching electors while they waited in line. Protecting electors from improper interference, political pressure, or intimidation while waiting in line to vote is of paramount importance to protecting the election system and ensuring elector confidence;

"(14) Ballot duplication for provisional ballots and other purposes places a heavy burden on election officials. The number of duplicated ballots has continued to rise dramatically from 2016 through 2020. Reducing the number of duplicated ballots will significantly reduce the burden on election officials and creating bipartisan panels to conduct duplication will promote elector confidence;

"(15) Electors voting out of precinct add to the burden on election officials and lines for other electors because of the length of time it takes to process a provisional ballot in a precinct. Electors should be directed to the correct precinct on election day to ensure that they are able to vote in all elections for which they are eligible;

"(16) In considering the changes in 2021, the General Assembly heard hours of testimony from electors, election officials, and attorneys involved in voting. The General Assembly made significant modifications through the legislative process as it weighed the various interests involved, including adding further weekend voting, changing parameters for out-of-precinct voting, and adding transparency for ballot images; and

"(17) While each of the changes in this legislation in 2021 stands alone and is severable under Code Section 1-1-3, the changes in total reflect the General Assembly's considered judgment on the changes required to Georgia's election system to make it 'easy to vote and hard to cheat,' applying the lessons learned from conducting an election in the 2020 pandemic."

Law reviews.

- For survey article on local government law, see 59 Mercer L. Rev. 285 (2007). For article on the 2019 amendment of this Code section, see 36 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 81 (2019).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Election challenger's timely filed election contest, filed after the election, was erroneously dismissed, as such was not moot merely because the challenger failed to file the contest prior to the election, given that no statutory provision or case law supported this proposition, and the petition sufficiently stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. Allen v. Yost, 281 Ga. 102, 636 S.E.2d 517 (2006), appeal dismissed, 282 Ga. 865, 655 S.E.2d 580 (2008).

OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Editor's notes.

- In light of the similarity of the statutory provisions, opinions decided under former Code 1933, § 34-605, are included in the annotations for this Code section.

One who moves away from a county forfeits the right to vote in that county. 1965-66 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 65-56 (decided under former Code 1933, § 34-605).

Notice of challenge.

- The registrars are required by law to give notice to the person whose right to appear on the voters list is questioned either by the registrars or by any citizen. The notice is to be in writing and served upon the person either personally or by leaving the same at the person's most notorious place of abode. 1945-47 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 242 (decided under former Code 1933, § 34-605).

Service of challenge.

- A notice of challenge of a registered voter is served by the sheriff, the deputy, or a lawful constable. The costs of service are paid from the county treasury. 1945-47 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 242 (decided under former Code 1933, § 34-605).

Proof of disqualification required for removal from voters list.

- The registrars may not remove the name of a challenged voter from the voters list except upon legal proof of disqualification. 1945-47 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 244 (decided under former Code 1933, § 34-605).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 25 Am. Jur. 2d, Elections, § 1793.

C.J.S.

- 29 C.J.S., Elections, § 75 et seq.

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