Voters in Georgia have the right to vote free from intimidation under federal and state law. footnote1_sejf8zy 1 18 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; 52 U.S.C. § 10101(b); Ga. Code §§ 21–2–566(3)-(4), 21–2–567. The federal protections that apply to all states are explained here. The below addresses the laws and policies that serve as guardrails against specific threats of intimidation.
Georgia strictly regulates voter challenges:
- A challenge to a voter’s right to vote must be made in writing and delivered to the board of elections prior to the voter casting a ballot and must distinctly specify the grounds of the challenge. footnote2_bnk49y6 2 Ga. Code § 21–2–230(a). Challenges cannot be made to any poll worker at a polling place.
- A challenge cannot move forward without probable cause. footnote3_l5ebmlu 3 Ga. Code § 21–2– 230(b). Probable cause in Georgia means the existence of such facts and circumstances that would create a reasonable belief that an accused person committed the act alleged. footnote4_pnefd1p 4 Adams v. Carlisle, 278 Ga. App. 777, 782 (2006). The burden is on the challenger to establish probable cause, not on the challenged voter to prove their eligibility.
- A challenge that is either intended to intimidate or results in the intimidation of a voter constitutes a felony. footnote5_k80s2oq 5 Ga. Code § 21–2–567.
- 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. footnote6_dn2daff 6 Ga. Code § 21–2–230(i).
The National Voter Registration Act 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. footnote7_52nx6hb 7 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. footnote8_bdybtg6 8 52 U.S.C. § 20507(c)(2)(A).
Intimidation of Poll Workers
It is a felony in Georgia to interfere with a poll worker performing their duties. footnote9_zraz8ad 9 Ga. Code §§ 21–2–569, 21–2–566(2). These protections for poll workers extend to the vote-counting process and all other aspects of election administration.
Intimidation by Poll Watchers
Poll watchers must be appointed in advance of the election by party or candidate representatives in Georgia. footnote10_9xotf84 10 Ga. Code § 21–2–408(b). Unauthorized watchers should not be permitted at polling places.
Georgia specifically limits how many watchers can be at the polls and what they are authorized to do:
- A party may have no more than four poll watchers (two local and two statewide) in a precinct. footnote11_ymllfox 11 Id.
- Watchers must wear an official badge while present in a polling place. footnote12_2u617q8 12 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. footnote13_nz1lu61 13 Id.
- Poll managers are authorized to remove any watcher for interfering or violating any of these rules. footnote14_j1q0hat 14 Id.
Firearms at Polling Locations
Georgia prohibits guns, apart from those belonging to peace officers, within 150 feet of polling places. footnote15_qj0zk0p 15 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.
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.
118 U.S.C. §§ 594, 241; 52 U.S.C. § 10101(b); Ga. Code §§ 21–2–566(3)-(4), 21–2–567.
2Ga. Code § 21–2–230(a).
3Ga. Code § 21–2– 230(b).
4Adams v. Carlisle, 278 Ga. App. 777, 782 (2006).
5Ga. Code § 21–2–567.
6Ga. Code § 21–2–230(i).
752 U.S.C. § 20507(c)(1)(B).
852 U.S.C. § 20507(c)(2)(A).
9Ga. Code §§ 21–2–569, 21–2–566(2).
10Ga. Code § 21–2–408(b).
12Ga. Code § 21–2–408(d).
15Ga. Code §§ 21–2–413(i), 16–11–127(b)(7).