North Georgia counties see the effects of Monday's statewide voter purge

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, left, speaks Wednesday with Jon Payne, elections superintendent for Chattooga County. / Staff photo by Patrick Filbin

Counties in North Georgia saw the effects of the statewide voter purge that took more than 300,000 people off the registered voter rolls earlier this week.

Sheena Weaver, the chief registrar in Chattooga County, said she sees Monday's purge as a way for local election officials to "clear out the people who no longer live in the county."

"If we haven't heard from you in five years, you become inactive," Weaver said. "Then if we go through two general elections and you still haven't done anything, you're eligible for the process."

The process Weaver mentioned is a 1993 federal law that requires states to maintain their voter-registration lists. Georgia is one of nine states that cancel the registration of people who have not had contact with the registration system for a period of time and have not responded to mail sent to their last known address asking for confirmation.

Weaver's office and every other registrar office in the state sent out confirmation notices to people on the list who were eligible for being removed.

"We give them another chance and ask them, 'Do you still want to be on the list?' Three people replied back," Weaver said.

In Chattooga County, 587 confirmation notices were sent out. Of those, 365 did not make contact of any kind and 210 came back undeliverable. From the full list, 10 voters re-registered and three people confirmed their addresses, meaning 574 voters were taken off voting rolls in the county.

In Catoosa County, 2,219 people were removed from the voters list, which leaves 45,436 on the list now.

In Murray County on Sept. 19, there were 22,083 registered voters on the books. After Monday, the election office removed 1,018 from the list.

In nearby Gordon County, 1,205 voters were removed from the voters list, leaving the county with 34,518 voters.

In Dade County, 698 voters were removed, and in Walker County, 1,813 voters were removed. It was not immediately known how many voters remained eligible in those counties.

On Monday, a federal judge allowed Georgia's purge to move forward and blocked a lawsuit filed by voting rights group Fair Fight Action.

Fair Fight Action argued the purge targeted about 120,000 inactive voters who would otherwise be eligible to vote but are being removed because they haven't cast a ballot since at least 2012.

photo FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 file photo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger answers questions after the Georgia House passed a bill to buy a new election system that includes a paper ballot. Georgia election officials are set to begin a mass purge of inactive voters from the state’s voting rolls on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in October released a list of over 313,000 voters whose registrations were at risk of being cancelled, about 4% of the state’s total registered voters. Those voters were mailed notices in November and had 30 days to respond in order to keep their registration intact. (Bob Andres//Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

On Thursday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office announced that people who last had contact with the voter registration system between January and May 2012 are allowed to get back on the list.

The announcement came two hours before state attorneys returned to federal court to defend Monday night's voter purge. Fair Fight Action considered the announcement a win for its stance and the secretary's move a "massive error" on his office's part.

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476.