By Johnny Jackson
As Georgia sees record numbers of early and advance voters, officials are trying to get a grip on potential voter fraud and irregularities that could occur on election day.
By Tuesday, more than 53,000 people voted in early and advance voting in Henry County. That is roughly 44 percent of the county's registered voters and more than half of the percentage projected to turnout this election. Reportedly, more than expected have already voted in many counties throughout Georgia - well over a million statewide.
Even with so many voting early in this election, Nov. 4 may still be the day with the highest voter turnout. That is the day officials will be out in force, monitoring polling irregularities and taking voter complaints.
"I think we've prepared very well," said Janet Shellnut, director of Henry County Elections and Registration. "We went through extensive training with our polling managers. We have people on alert, watching and looking."
Some organizations, like the Clayton County Branch of the NAACP, will also be out in force helping make sure citizens get to their proper voter precincts. On election day, the NAACP will be assisting citizens with travel to and from polling places.
"It's going to be a critical election," said Dexter Matthews, president of the Clayton County Branch of the NAACP. "We're trying to get out as many people as we can to vote. We're trying to make sure we have as many people vote in the county as we can."
Lines have been growing in Clayton since early voting began weeks ago. "These are the longest lines I've ever seen in Clayton County," Matthews said. "We're encouraging everybody to advance vote to help the people who show up on election day."
Part of the NAACP's role on election day will be to act as a civil-and voting-rights advocate, helping make sure no one is disenfranchised at the polls. "We're trying to make sure there aren't any irregularities," Matthews added.
Federal officials will help monitor voting at the state level in Georgia as well. United States Attorney David Nahmias recently announced that Assistant U.S. Attorney William Toliver of Atlanta will lead the Election Day Program on Nov. 4. Toliver will serve as the district election officer for the Northern District of Georgia, responsible for overseeing the district's handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses, in consultation with Justice Department in Washington, D.C.
"We are committed to assuring an honest and fair election, and to assuring that every lawful vote is counted," Nahmias said. "Election fraud and voting rights abuses dilute and preclude honest votes. They strike at the very heart of our rights as citizens and corrupt the essence of our representative form of government. As such, we will address credible reports of election fraud and voting rights violations promptly and aggressively."
Nahmias added that anyone who has information suggesting electoral corruption or voting rights abuses should make that information available immediately to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his office, or the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
The Justice Department's long-standing Election Day Program furthers the goals of the Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative, which is intended to ensure public confidence in the election process. Attorney General John Ashcroft established the department-wide initiative on Oct. 8, 2002.
As a part of the initiative, the Election Day Program provides local points of contact within the department where the public can report possible election fraud and voting rights violations, while the polls are open on election day.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Toliver will be on duty while the polls are open and can be reached at (404) 581-6000. The FBI will also have special agents available in the Atlanta Field Office and at each resident agency in the Northern District to receive allegations of election fraud, intimidation, suppression and other election abuses. The FBI can be reached by the public at (404) 679-9000.
Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can also be made directly to the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section in Washington at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767. Where voter intimidation or suppression tactics target voters on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin, the Civil Rights Division's Criminal Section may be contacted at (202) 514-3204.
Members of the NAACP will be out at major intersections in Clayton County, rallying for voter participation on election day. Members of the NAACP will also be on hand at polling sites periodically monitoring vote counts throughout the day. Representatives from the two major political parties and poll monitors will also be at voter precincts throughout the state.
Rev. Daniel Edwards, the outgoing president of the Henry County Branch of the NAACP, said: "Since I've been the president of the Henry County NAACP [since 2002], I have not received one complaint about voting, which speaks to the good job Janet Shellnut does."
For anyone who has concerns or needs assistance getting to the polls in Clayton, call the Clayton County NAACP office at (770) 471-0669, or 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Voters may also call the Clayton County Elections Office at (770) 477-3372.
If voters in Henry have complaints, they may call the Henry County Branch of the NAACP at (404) 992-8834, or the Henry County Elections Office at (770) 288-6448.
On the net:
U.S. Department of Justice: www.usdoj.gov/usao/gan