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Georgia man's generic name apparently causing voting issues

A Cobb County man said his name has caused him issues in the past and now it may be affecting his voting.

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Update: After our story aired, the Secretary of State's Office reached out to 11Alive to explain how they believe the voting error happened.

Three days in a row, a Cobb County man tried to cast his ballot for the upcoming election. Why three days? Because he discovered someone may have already voted for him.

And it may be because of his seemingly generic name: Michael Smith.

The ordeal for Smith started on Oct. 24, 2022, when he went to cast his ballot in Smyrna. However, he discovered his voting record was moved from Cobb County to a different county where he's never lived.

“They literally had no record of me," Smith said. "Here's my address, 'No record of you at that address.' Here's my name, 'Well, my name is worthless, okay?'”

Smith’s lived in the same place for 16 years, votes regularly in the primary and general elections, and claimed he never requested a voter registration card in another county.

Turns out, this is the third time in the past few years that Smith’s voting record was moved to another county. A spokesperson for the Cobb County Board of Elections told 11Alive “this keeps happening” with Smith, and Cobb officials are “familiar with the situation.”

“The other county keeps transferring the voter record because they have a Michael Smith, and they keep mistaking this voter for their voter,” an email response read. 

The spokesperson added Cobb County usually contacts the other county to correct the record. However, they added they can’t stop another county from mistakenly moving the voting record.

11Alive asked the Secretary of State’s office for clarification on moving voting records. A spokesperson said their database “is where records are stored, but we do not move or edit any voters. That’s what the county clerks do.”

Believing his situation to be resolved by local officials and the SOS office, Smith returned on Oct. 25, to try and vote again. He discovered, once again, that he couldn’t. But this time, it wasn’t because his voting record was moved. It was apparently because he had “already voted.”

“I go to sit down and get a ballot. ‘Oh, somebody's voted for you.’ You can imagine what was going on in my head," Smith said. "It was like, 'Oh, heck, no, I haven't. How could I have voted?' Because the record wasn't in my location (yesterday).”

According to Smith, the poll manager asked for him to provide his passport for a signature match on the already-casted ballot.

“She said, ‘This is not your signature, these don't even match,’” Smith said. “All this hubbub about ‘We're going to match signatures and make sure its voters are legit.’ If you voted on my record, how could a signature that different be accepted as a valid signature?”

Smith was informed a different Michael Smith requested and cast an absentee ballot.

There are over 80 active registered voters with the name Michael Smith in Cobb County, the elections director told us. Across the State, they said the system brings up 172 pages, which could be as many as 1,720 voters.

“If a county can pull somebody's voting records, if somebody can vote on that, and there are no checks and balances, what integrity is there?" he asked.

Cobb County’s Smith doesn’t believe it was malicious, but a result of his voting record being moved without his knowledge or consent.

“There's no checks and balances to this? I have no reason why (the other county) is doing this over and over again, just because somebody's named Michael Smith? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous," he exclaimed.

To request an absentee ballot in Georgia, a person must include their driver’s license or state ID card. Passports, military identification, or any other valid photo id issues by a branch, department, or agency will be accepted. However, a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document can be accepted instead of an ID.

Additionally, according to the Secretary of State’s absentee voting guide, “no absentee ballot shall be mailed to an address other than your permanent mailing address in the voter registration record or a temporary out-of-county or out-of-municipality address, except in the case of a voter who has a physical disability or is in custody in a jail or other detention facility.”

Cobb County’s Smith tried to vote again on Wednesday, Oct. 26th, but again, could not.

11Alive reached out to the Secretary of State’s office to see what Smith or any other person could do should they find themselves in a similar situation. We’re awaiting a response.

However, Georgia law allows a voter to file a complaint or report suspected voter fraud online.

But, Smith doesn't want to go that route and stops short of calling what’s happening to him “voter fraud.”

“But this is where voting problems start. Once is acceptable, twice is a problem, third time is incompetence,” Smith said. “I've been in essence, disenfranchised at this point through no fault of my own.”

Smith said through no fault of his or possibly the other Michael Smith, he's wasted a lot of time trying to vote and worries others might give up if it happens to them. He wants to get to the bottom of what’s happened, wants the situation rectified, and hopes there’s no repeat in the future. 

“According to the Secretary of State, I've already voted," he said. "To which you might imagine my answer was, ‘oh, no, I didn't.’ You need to resolve this. That's not my signature. That's not my ballot, and I did not make that request. I'm a person, I have a voter ID number. It belongs to me. It's my personal information. It's my access to exercise, my vote.”

On Wednesday, Smith provided a copy of an email sent to him by a representative at the Secretary of State’s office, offering to assist him with his complaint. He admitted he received the email late in the day and responded after the SOS office officially closed for the day. He hopes to have the situation resolved soon, but if not, plans to show up every day until they can cast his vote.

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