Tens of thousands of challenges to Georgia voters’ eligibility create ‘embarrassing’ last-minute hurdle

Fulton County resident Travis Barber says he when he went to vote early, the poll worker looked up from the computer and told him there was a problem.

His voter eligibility had been challenged.

"I asked her challenged by who and why? She couldn’t tell me, so I had to do the temporary ballot," Barber said. "I had my driver’s license and I had my state ID. She checked both of them and the address is matching."

Barber is one of roughly more than 65,000 voters across the state who have had their eligibility to vote challenged by another voter.

Gabe Sterling, the chief operating officer for the Secretary of State, said the new election law allows voters to challenge an unlimited number of voters.

"I think there’s people out there who got a little zealous with their engagement in the process," Sterling said. "Of the 65,000, really all of them were tossed out by the by bipartisan [county] election boards that do these things."

By one estimate, about 95% of the challenges across the state were tossed out.

Barber said his was one of the few who was not.

He said the poll worker told him he had to fill out a provisional ballot, and he now must appear before the Fulton County Board of Elections on Election Day in order to have that vote counted.

"What was crazy to me is that I voted for the first time ever last year, and I was on parole," Barber said. "I go back this time as a free man. I know I can vote. To get challenged, it was really insulting and embarrassing."

Sterling said there should be only a handful of voters in Barber’s position, but explained what you should do on Tuesday if you show up to vote and find you’ve been challenged.

"What you can do is you go in person and find you’ve been challenged, have your ID, vote provisional and answer the questions that the board and staff may have for you," he said.

Barber said he did that, and he believes this is a coordinated effort to disenfranchise voters.

"I’m not going to stand around and be bullied or be silenced or be denied my constitutional right," he said. "It’s not just me. The average Black man probably isn’t going to go through what I went through to vote. I want to let the people know that you got a vote no matter what it cost you."

Sterling said that your eligibility cannot be challenged at your polling location.

However, a flood of last-minute challenges has the Secretary of State’s office considering changes to the process.

"The main issue we see is [the challenges] are coming really late," Sterling said. "It’s up to works when election workers should be focused on getting people to vote, they shouldn’t be researching people’s voter registration."

Before heading to the polls on Tuesday, you can check on the status of your voter registration on the Georgia Secretary of State’s voter portal.