Georgia Secretary of State Investigating Washington, Georgia Municipal Election

Published on 22 March 2024 at 08:50

An investigation is being conducted by the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger, regarding the city of Washington, Georgia 2023 municipal election. Richard Crabbe, videographer, photographer and reporter for the Washington Wilkes Informer, and I, were contacted by an investigator and asked to make statements about the public accessibility to the ballot processing area in the Wilkes County courthouse on election day. On that day, November 7, 2023, I was told I was not allowed in the ballot processing area on the fourth floor of the courthouse. Crabbe stated he was told by Wilkes County probate judge Thomas Charpin that he would not be allowed in the ballot processing area. Crabbe, who has had a distinguished and award-winning career in television journalism, reminded Charpin of the election law that states “the tabulation and consolidation shall be performed in public.” The law also states that the election superintendent may set reasonable rules regarding conduct to avoid interference with tabulating center personnel but it is commonly understood, statewide that for reasons that include transparency and public faith in the fairness of the election process, the public is allowed access and certainly not prohibited from viewing the process. Crabbe said he was also told by Sparky Newsome, who is a member of the Wilkes County board of registrars, that he would not be allowed to be in the area when the votes were tabulated. Crabbe said he was told that the county attorney, Caleb Saggus was consulted on the matter and also said he could not be in the ballot processing area. Board of elections supervisor, Henry Crew was sick on election day and it was unclear who was officially serving in that role, in his place.


There are strict laws about what can and cannot happen in the area where voters cast their ballots. Only voters, election officials and trained poll watchers are allowed in this area and poll watchers are not allowed to interact with voters or speak to them in this area. Cameras are not allowed as it is very important voters do not feel any intimidation and that their vote is a private decision unless they choose to share who they voted for. However, when the polls close and the votes have been cast, for reasons that not only give the public confidence in the voting process and faith in the results but also protect those who are performing the tabulation of results, public access is written into the law. Not dissimilar to the reasons certain records are to be made available to the public and meetings and agendas are to be publicly posted so citizens can attend if they wish, transparency holds government accountable and is a cornerstone of democracy. A lack of transparency can sow doubt and distrust.


The investigator handling the investigation for the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger, said she will not disclose the full nature of the complaint and they do not disclose the name of individuals who make complaints regarding elections. It is unknown at this time if the lack of public availability to the ballot processing area on election day, is the only potential violation regarding the Washington 2023 municipal election, they are investigating.


This story is unfolding and updates will be made as they are available.


Written by Michelle Chaffee

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