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Cobb County to hear challenge to more than 16,000 voters ahead of Senate runoffs

A special Board of Elections & Registration meeting has been called for Friday.

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — In a specially called meeting on Friday, Cobb County's Board of Elections & Registration will hear a challenge to the eligibility of more than 16,000 registered voters ahead of the Jan. 5 Senate runoff.

The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. 

The challenge is being brought by the "head of the local Republican party," according to a county spokesman. The chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party is Jason Shepherd.

RELATED: Georgia Secretary of State announces signature audit in Cobb County

According to a public notice for the meeting, the challenge is being brought under §21-2-230 (a) of the Georgia Code.

That law lays out how a challenge may be brought against individual voters in advance of an election:

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 election; 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. 

Section 21-2-230 also stipulates how the elections board "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," the law stipulates. "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."

It's not yet clear on what grounds, specifically, the challenge is being brought. It's also not clear if any of the 16,000 people in this challenge have already voted.

The law appears to stipulate that any challenge to an in-person voter must be made before that person has voted. But those who have already voted by absentee ballot would appear to be open to challenge, under the law, until 5 p.m. on Jan. 4, in the case of the Jan. 5 runoffs.

It's not clear if the Cobb board finds probable cause for the challenge, that those voters will be notified and given a chance to respond, under the "if practical" stipulation in 21-2-230 (b).

Sections 21-2-230 (c) and 21-2-230 (e) do lay out some recourse for a challenged voter:

  • 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. 
  • 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. 

The challenge comes as Cobb County is subject to an audit conducted by the GBI over its signature-matching process in the June primaries, which was announced earlier this week by Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger.

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