Demand letter sent to Camden election officials

Dec. 2—The Camden County Democratic Party has sent a "demand letter" to county election officials asking for early voting hours to be extended to 7 p.m.

Kevin Blue, chair of Democrats of Camden County, said in his letter to election officials that he heard complaints from multiple voters about long wait times and misinformation.

"While I am personally excited that Camden County is experiencing this surge in voter turnout, it seems clear that there has not been adequate preparation or planning," he said. "Camden County has had as much time as any other county in Georgia to prepare for this special election. There can be no excuse to restrict or hamper voting access."

The letter, sent at 10:52 p.m. Tuesday, was emailed to Camden County Clerk Katie Bishop and to an incorrect email address for the county attorney. The county clerk plays no role in elections.

Camden County Supervisor of Elections Shannon Nettles said she never knew about the demand letter until Wednesday afternoon. Even if she had gotten it earlier, Nettles said there was little she or board of elections officials could have done to accommodate the request on short notice.

If the board of elections members would have been willing to extend hours, they would have had to meet the legal requirements of at least a 24-hour notice to hold a meeting to discuss and vote on the issue. And if they board would have voted to extend hours, it would have created other legal obstacles, as well as confusion among voters.

"I couldn't do anything this late in the game," Nettles said. "The advertising requirements would not have been met."

The only way early voting hours could have been extended on short notice would have been through a court order, Nettles said.

"You can't arbitrarily extend hours," she said. "It takes more than me saying the polls will stay open until 7 o'clock. It would take the order of a judge."

Nettles talked with state elections officials Wednesday after learning of the request and was told there were no circumstances such as long waits or problems with voting equipment that would have compelled a judge to grant such a request.

Camden Democrats asked board of elections officials to extend early voting hours and add Saturday voting for the runoff after the general election last month. Nettles said board members didn't believe there was a need to have early voting beyond 5 p.m. this week.

Democrats also asked for additional poll workers to speed up the time to check in voters.

Nettles said the issue of checking in voters has more to do with the limited amount of space at polling places and the number of machines available to verify eligibility.

Nettles said the process to scan voters will speed up with the addition of new equipment before the next election. The new scanners are being used in a limited number of counties, including Glynn, where election officials said they are working well.

Blue said polling places in Camden should also be staffed by well-trained and monitored people, and there should be clear signage posted for disabled voters and those older than 75 years-old to let them know they can move to the front of the line.

"I hope that Camden County Board of Elections will take these demands seriously and make the best decisions for the voters of Camden County," Blue said in his letter. "But should the board decide otherwise, I will have no choice but to immediately refer my concerns to the Department of Justice."