Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials

GALEO Condemns Disenfranchisement of Latino Voters in Atkinson County


Contact: Jerry Gonzalez, Office: 404.745.2580,

Atlanta, GA, October 20, 2004 – Three registered voters in Atkinson County selectively targeted 88 Latino registered voters and challenged their voter qualification under the allegations that they are not U.S. citizens.  GALEO condemns this practice as discriminatory and as an act of voter intimidation.

The challenge came from three Atkinson County registered voters:  James O. Mullis, Frank Lee Sutton, and Benjamin Philip Liles.  Atkinson County Registrar, Linda Davis, stated that the challengers specifically asked for all of the “Latino registered voters”.  Overall, the challengers questioned the eligibility of 86% of all Latino voters in Atkinson County.

This is the second such challenge that has been reported to GALEO this year.  GALEO condemned a previous challenge of 46 Latino registered voters in Long County leading up to the July 2004 primary elections.  The challenges in Long County were made by three failed candidates.

According to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, Georgia law allows for a challenge of an elector’s eligibility to vote in the respective county for any reason by another elector in the respective county (O.C.G.A. § 21-2-230).  However, the application of this law traditionally has been employed to challenge residency requirements involving people who have moved away and no longer reside in the address in which they are registered to vote.

According to an Attorney General’s opinion in the mid 1940’s, the county registrar may not remove the name of a challenged voter from the voters list absent legal proof of disqualification.  The implication here is that the burden of proof is on the people who challenge a registered voter.

A hearing has been set for Thursday, October 28th, at 6:30 P.M. The hearing is set by Atkinson County Elections Officials to provide the registered voters an opportunity to address the challenges.  MALDEF is investigating the issue further and may be present at the hearing.

Many immigrants and farm workers live in mixed-immigrant status families.  Some Latino households are likely a combination of U.S. citizens and a mixture of immigrant-status residents.  These types of challenges across the state may disenfranchise and intimidate some Latinos from voting.

GALEO strongly condemns this practice of voter intimidation and will continue to monitor these challenges to ensure that Latino U.S. citizens are not singled out for these types of challenges across the state.  GALEO strongly believes that all U.S. citizens should be allowed to participate in our electoral process and have the ability to exercise their right to vote without the fear of intimidation.  GALEO will work with affected communities to educate them on the process of voting and their rights as citizens.

GALEO reminds Latinos and all voters about two voter protection efforts as we head into the early voting  next week and election day on November 2nd.  The hotlines are now available.

The GALEO Educational Fund has launched a national toll free bilingual number (1-888-Ve-Y-Vota / 1-888-839-8682) for voter information and voter protection efforts.

Additionally, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights currently have a national hotline  (1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683) until election day and staffed with trained pro bono lawyers and law students from 6:00 AM EST until 8:00 PM PST.

GALEO encourages all registered voters to vote early during next week’s early voting period or to vote on Tuesday, November 2nd.