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Georgia: Protections Against Intimidation of Voters and Election Workers

This resource details state and federal laws protecting against the intimidation of voters and election workers and the disruption of the voting process.

Last Updated: May 21, 2024
Published: October 28, 2022
View the entire Laws Protecting Voters and Election Workers from Intimidation series

Voters in Georgia have the right to vote free from intimidation under federal and state law. footnote1_fbn7qo6 1 See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; 52 U.S.C. § 10101(b); Ga. Code §§ 21–2–566(3)–(4), 21–2–567; see also Ga. Code § 21–2–593(1)–(2) (creating a criminal penalty for law enforcement officers who neglect or refuse to clear obstructions that prevent voters from entering polling places or to quell other polling place disturbances when called upon).  The federal protections that apply to all states are explained here. The following actions are specifically prohibited by Georgia law:

  • Willfully blocking or attempting to block the avenue to the door of any polling place. footnote2_25dc0rz 2 Ga. Code § 21–2–566(3).
  • Using or threatening violence in a manner that would prevent a reasonable elector from voting or actually prevents any elector from voting. footnote3_l7t91it 3 Ga. Code § 21–2–566(4).
  • Using or threatening to use force and violence or acting in any other manner to intimidate any person to vote or refrain from voting, to vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular candidate or question, or to register or refrain from registering to vote. footnote4_fn56dxy 4 Ga. Code § 21–2–567.

The below addresses the laws that serve as guardrails against specific threats of intimidation.

Voter Challenges

Although Georgia permits any registered voter to challenge another voter’s eligibility, footnote5_rj3b1l8 5 Ga. Code §§ 21–2–229, 21–2–230.  state law also provides for some guardrails:

If a challenge meets the probable cause threshold but the voter cannot immediately appear before the board of registrars and answer the grounds of the challenge before the polls close, the voter should be allowed to cast a challenged (i.e., provisional) ballot. footnote9_1gclpuj 9 Ga. Code § 21–2–230(i).

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) provides additional safeguards to protect voters from mass challenges before an election:

  • The NVRA expressly recognizes that National Change of Address information is not sufficient on its own to serve as the basis for canceling a voter’s registration. footnote10_0bnb901 10 52 U.S.C. § 20507(c)(1)(B).
  • The NVRA prohibits the systematic removal of voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election. footnote11_gf854b4 11 52 U.S.C. § 20507(c)(2)(A).

Intimidation of Poll Workers and Election Officials

In addition to federal protections against the intimidation of election workers, it is a felony in Georgia to interfere with a poll worker performing their duties. footnote12_e4kjh07 12 Ga. Code §§ 21–2–569, 21–2–566(2), 21–2–593(3) (creating a criminal penalty for law enforcement officers who hinder or delay poll officers in the performance of their duties).  These protections for poll workers extend to the vote-counting process and all other aspects of election administration.

Voter Intimidation by Poll Workers

The Brennan Center and All Voting is Local published a detailed resource on the rules and constraints for Georgia poll workers here.

Intimidation by Poll Watchers

In addition to Georgia’s voter intimidation laws detailed above, state law places limits on who may serve as an observer and what they may and may not do:

  • Poll watchers must be appointed in advance of the election by party or candidate representatives in Georgia. footnote13_4xrnf5w 13 Ga. Code § 21–2–408(b).  Unauthorized watchers should not be permitted at polling places.
  • A party may have no more than four poll watchers (two local and two statewide) in a precinct. footnote14_i02rl2u 14 Ga. Code § 21–2–408(b).
  • Watchers must wear an official badge while present in a polling place. footnote15_yzmicnl 15 Ga. Code § 21–2–408(d).
  • Georgia law prohibits watchers from interfering with the conduct of an election in any way. Specifically, those serving as poll watchers may not talk to voters, use cell phones, take photos, record video, campaign, or check the electors list. footnote16_fsin3xc 16 Ga. Code § 21–2–408(d).

Poll managers are authorized to remove any watcher for interfering or violating any of these rules. footnote17_2xa77sb 17 Ga. Code § 21–2–408(d).

State and Local Law Enforcement

It is a misdemeanor for law enforcement officers to neglect or refuse to clear obstructions that prevent voters from entering polling places or to quell other polling place disturbances when called upon to do so by a poll worker. footnote18_blpoqt7 18 Ga. Code § 21–2–593(1)–(2).  It is also a misdemeanor for law enforcement officers to willfully hinder or delay poll workers in the performance of their duties. footnote19_g5kz21d 19 Ga. Code § 21–2–593(3).

Guns at Polling Locations

Georgia prohibits guns, apart from those belonging to peace officers, within 150 feet of polling places. footnote20_6sknifm 20 Ga. Code §§ 21–2–413(i), 16–11–127(b)(7).  The presence of any such firearm in or around a polling place should be treated as intimidation.

Even at locations where firearms are not expressly prohibited, firearm carry may constitute unlawful intimidation. Such conduct may consist of carrying a visible firearm while near a polling location or at a drop box or vote-counting site, displaying a concealed firearm during a discussion or argument with a voter or election worker, or approaching a voter or election worker while displaying a firearm.

Door-to-Door Intimidation

Georgia and federal law prohibit canvassing efforts that are used to intimidate voters. footnote21_ujasn64 21 18 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; Ga. Code § 21–2–567.  Any voter who receives a visit from a privately organized canvassing group does not have to answer any questions and should report any incidents of intimidation to their local officials.

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