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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Board of Elections staves off over 700 voter challenges from local GOP Chair

Polling roster changes aren’t allowed 90 days before an election
Bibb+County+GOP+Chairman+David+Sumrall+presents+his+challenges+to+over+700+voters+on+Bibb+County%E2%80%99s+polling+roster+at+the+Board+of+Elections+Meeting+on+April+29%2C+2024.
Henry Keating
Bibb County GOP Chairman David Sumrall presents his challenges to over 700 voters on Bibb County’s polling roster at the Board of Elections Meeting on April 29, 2024.

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections (MBCBOE) heard three separate challenges Monday to more than 700 voters on the county’s polling roster brought forward by Bibb County GOP Chair David Sumrall. The Board voted unanimously to dismiss two of the challenges and dismissed the third on a 3-2 split.

The first challenge was to 49 voters who were using post office boxes as their addresses, the second was to 159 voters that had listed 1501 Mercer University Drive and the third was to the 585 voters that appeared to exist as active voters in other state registries, which Sumrall found via the National Change of Address (NCOA) form database.

Tom Ellington, a member of the board and professor of political science at Wesleyan College, opened all of the motions for dismissal under the authority that the 90-day “quiet period” before an election had already begun for the May 21 election. Mike Kaplan was the second on all the motions.

The 90-day quiet period was instituted under the National Voter Registration Act in 1993 under Bill Clinton, and it bans all “systematic” reviews or changes to the polling rosters within 90 days prior to an election. Since Sumrall filed his challenges earlier this month, he was already within the 90-day window of the May 21 Primary Election.

The challenge hearing was held at the MBCCOE facility at the Macon Mall. The small room in which the hearing was conducted held the challenger Sumrall, his wife and a single challenged voter, as well as a large crowd bearing signs that said “NO VOTER SUPPRESSION” and “LET THE PEOPLE VOTE.”

The single challenged voter who appeared was Maragaret Rooyakkers, a Mercer grad who has lived on campus in different buildings since 2015. Despite changing buildings on campus, Rooyakkers has had the same mailing address, the university’s mail center. 

Mike Kaplan, another member of the board, said that since the tax assessor managed the whole of campus as one property, it made sense to list people living at that property by the same address.

“You chip away a little bit at a time,” Sumrall said. “I am disappointed that we are allowing people that are registered in other states to still be on our inactive roll. We are allowing a non-resident to be used as a resident, and we’re allowing people to vote that have post office boxes as their residence.”

Chairwoman Karen Evans-Daniel raised to the board that while the concerns over the seemingly potential duplicate voters in other states may be valid, there was no concrete proof that those were the same people. There was no identifying moniker like a drivers license number or a social security number attached to the records provided by Sumrall.

The Board found very little substantiation in Sumrall’s evidence, and decided that it was not enough to defy the National Voter Registration Act’s window. They also decided not to pursue further examination after the window except for the 49 challenged voters currently utilizing P.O. Box. 

“We are risking disenfranchising people based on guesswork,” Ellington said, expressing the board’s concern about Sumrall’s challenges, specifically regarding the people Sumrall pulled from the NCOA register. Regardless, none of the challenges stood before the board.

Early voting for the May 21 primary began on April 29, and will continue through May 17. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is May 10. Early voting is available on the weekends on May 4 and 5 and May 11 and 12.

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