2015-09-17 / Front Page

Nobody knows how anybody votes, voter registrar tells council members

By KIP BURKE
news editor

Nobody is allowed to know how anybody votes, the Wilkes County voter registrar told the Washington City Council Monday night, and it is a felony to scare anyone into voting or not voting for any candidate.

“I’ve had calls the last few weeks,” said registrar Debbie Anderson. “There are people out there who are being told that ‘I’m going to know how you vote.’ I can tell you right now that nobody is going to know who you vote for.”

The only exception is if someone helps you fill out an absentee ballot, she said. If you fill out an absentee ballot yourself, and seal it before sending it in, nobody knows who you vote for, she said. “Ballots are locked up and taken in a sealed bag to the courthouse. Your name is not attached to the ballot, and there is no way anybody is going to know how you voted.”

Anderson said she had heard that there was voter intimidation going on in Washington-Wilkes. “If anybody feels threatened in any way,” she said, “the state code states it’s a felony ‘for anyone who uses or threatens to use force or violence or acts in any other manner to intimidate any other person to vote or refrain from voting in any primary or election.’”

The law goes on to define intimidation: “To undertake or pursue a known or willful course of conduct which causes emotional distress by placing another person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of another person.”

If anyone sees anyone intimidating voters, she said, they can anonymously call the free voter hotline at 877-725-9797, or call the Wilkes Supervisor of Elections Judge Thomas Charping at 706-678-2523.

For the upcoming municipal election in Washington, early voting begins Monday, October 12, and goes through October 30, from 8-5 Monday through Friday at the voter registrar’s office, Room 113 of the Wilkes County courthouse.

October 5 is the last day to register to vote in this year’s election, and any requests for absentee ballots or changes of address need to be made by that date. “The Georgia code says if you move and you do not change your address by that date, you must change it before you cast that ballot,” she said. “When you fill out your certificate at the polls, the line that says ‘current residence’ not where you’re registered from now, if it is different from what we have, once we get the certificate, we’ll make the change and you will have legally voted.”

The same is true for applications for absentee voting, she said. “The certificate here, when you sign it, that is a sworn oath that the information you have given is correct. On your registration application it says ‘I swear or affirm that I reside at the address listed above. I am eligible to vote in Georgia.’ So keep in mind that these are oaths, and any false information on there, the person registering shall be guilty of a felony. It’s right there on the form. So if you’re helping people get registered, be sure they live here, unless they’re military or full-time student.”

The registration process is complicated, she said. “If anyone has questions about applications, call me before you send it in.” Call the registrar’s office at 706-678-1850.

Anderson also pointed out that, for young people, registering for the Selective Service no longer automatically registers them to vote. “I’ve had several calls about that.”

Sample ballots for the November 2 municipal election should be available by October 8.

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