Macon Telegraph
Wed, Oct. 27, 2004

County questions 98 Hispanics' right to vote

Associated Press

PEARSON, Ga. - Nearly 100 Hispanic residents in rural Atkinson County are being required to show up at the county courthouse to prove they are U.S. citizens before they are allowed to vote.

Ninety-eight letters from the county's Board of Registrars, printed in English and Spanish, tell the registered voters that their right to vote has been challenged and that they must show proof of citizenship by Thursday evening.

"We discovered quite accidentally that we had a lot of non-citizens registered to vote in Atkinson County," said Frank Sutton, one of three men who initiated the challenge. "We don't feel like anybody in the country should vote unless they are a citizen."

Sutton told WALB-TV in Albany that he heard about non-citizens registering to vote from Jerry Metts, an incumbent county commissioner who is seeking re-election.

The station reported that several Hispanic men wrote in sworn affidavits that Metts came to their homes to solicit votes. When they told him they weren't citizens, Metts told them they didn't have to be, the statements said.

The statements claim Metts then helped them complete voter registration applications.

Metts' attorney, Shea Browning, said the commissioner did help some people register but that he's done nothing wrong.

Browning called the charges a personal attack on his client, and said that Sutton and others are suppressing the vote of some innocent Hispanics in the process.

According to the letter, the recipients must show up at the courthouse at 7 p.m. Thursday for a hearing. It says that if they cast ballots in Georgia's early voting, they must bring proof of citizenship with them or furnish it within two days of voting for their ballot to be counted.