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Election office accessibility subject of state complaint

EarlyVoting

While the county hasn’t been told specifics on the case against their building, voters publicly complained about the steep hill where the lines formed during early voting last year.

Progress file, Oct. 2020 / Photo

The Pickens County Board of Elections is one of many entities Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the State Election Board allege committed voter violations during the 2020 election season. 

The local elections board as well as elections supervisor Julianne Roberts, are accused of “failing to provide adequate access in a polling place as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the State Election Board five-member panel heard investigative findings in 63 cases. The board voted to refer 24 of those, including the Pickens County case, to the attorney general for prosecution. The Secretary

of State’s office referred another 35 cases of elections-law violations to the attorney general or local district attorneys for criminal prosecution earlier this month as well. 

The Secretary of State office’s investigation division investigates accusations of voting irregularities and presents their findings to the board, which can levy fines, issue a letter of instruction, or refer the case for prosecution.

“We will continue to root out voting fraud and make sure anyone guilty of it faces prosecution,” Raffensperger said in a prepared statement. “Fortunately, these individual cases aren’t large enough to change the outcome of a statewide election. Their prosecution is an example to others who may contemplate skirting the rules that protect election integrity in Georgia.”

Pickens Election Supervisor Roberts said she is not certain what specific ADA violations they are alleged to be in violation of. 

“They haven’t told us anything,” she said. “It’s got something to do with this building, but we’re not sure what.”

The Pickens County Elections Office, located on Pioneer Road in Jasper, was used for early voting during the presidential election. Early voting lines were very long, with residents waiting several hours at some points. Eventually, a second early voting location was added at the Pickens Community Center. This site was used as the only early voting location for the U.S. Senate runoff. 

Despite Roberts not being aware of the formal complaints lodged against her and the local elections board, during last year’s elections voters complained about the steep grade of the hill at the elections office, an absence of public restrooms, and too few voting machines for the large turnout. 

Roberts suspects that the high-number of voters who turned out last year at the Elections Office polling place could have contributed to the allegations, as she believes voters likely filed complaints with the state against her and her office. More voters at that polling place would mean more people who would potentially find problems.   

“We’ve been in this building since 2011 and have had many investigators from the state here and they haven’t said anything to us all these years so I was a little shocked, but if enough people complain they would look into it,” she said. 

Roberts does not know when they will hear results of their case, but said if they are ultimately found to be in violation, voting would not be allowed at that Pioneer Road location in the future.