CCDC Member and District 2 Post Seat Holder Carry Smith provided testimony during the Primary Elections Investigate Hearing in support of a solutions to improve projected needs for absentee ballot processing for the November 2020 Elections.
Dear Rep. Bob Trammell et al. and Members of Governmental Affairs Committee:
By way of introduction I am Carry J. Smith, ABD. I am a Ph.D. Student at Clark Atlanta University. I am writing my Dissertation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. I moved back to Savannah, Georgia in 2017.
June 1, 2020 through June 17, 2020 I worked as a member of the Chatham County- Board of Elections (BOE) Absentee Processing Team. Upon my personal observation of infractions, incidents, irregularities and following Federal, State and local laws, it is my belief Chatham County Board of Elections Supervisor knowingly and willingly violated Georgia State Rule 183-1-14-0.7-.15, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment in the administration and processing of Absentee Ballots during June 1, 2020 to June 17, 2020.
Two Semi-Permanent workers were hired by the Voter Registration and BOE as promoted by BOE-Supervisor. June 1, 2020 to Sunday, June 14, 2020 an equal number of personnel were racially diverse, religious, and party affiliations were represented on Absentee Processing Team. During week, Two Semi-Permanent workers were further promoted by BOE-Supervisor. Additional, team was brought in to Scan Absentee Ballots for the Chatham County-Board of Elections (BOE) Ab sentee Processing Team. The “Scanning Team” consists of 7 white-republican women of which three (3) are family members, two (2) blood-related sisters, and one mother-in-law of one of the sisters, and of which five (5) of the 7 are members of the same church and/or know one-another personally before June 1, 2020. During the second week, the staff was segregated between a “scanning” team and “ballot opening” team. The Ballot Opening Team was predominately half Black Women Personnel and White Women Personnel.
On Friday, June 12, 2020, the Ballot Opening Team was moved to the BOE-Training Room where no convenient bathroom was present. I promoted myself as the only Democrat on the Scanning Team, whereas, no black or brown and/or democrats were otherwise on the team from June 12, 2020 to Sunday, June 14, 2020. During this time, the Scanning Team were allowed by the Supervisor to make recommendations to who from the Ballot Opening Team would be promoted to the Scanning Team. Upon recommendation, personnel were eliminated for “being loud” and/or “bad with paperwork on Batch Reconciliation sheets.” In personal observation, black women on the Ballot Opening Team were told not to talk, use phones, and/or use refreshments, while the Scanning Team did all three near Absentee Ballot Scanning Equipment.
On June 1, 2020, Absentee Processing Team were told they would be trained on both teams and would share equal duties for the remainder of Absentee Ballot Processing.
On Saturday, June 13, 2020, I personally witnessed a list recommended for elimination of Personnel not be promoted for Scanning Team of which was all entirely Black Women. On lunch, my person contacted a Democratic Representative of BOE-Board. The Democratic Representative came to address the issue of Two Semi-Permanent workers segregating and eliminating Ballot Opening Team. The BOE-Member spoke with the Scanning team but did not provide discussion with the Ballot Opening Team. BOE-Member continued to take pictures on social media proving said presence which can be viewed on Facebook Profile Page on Saturday, June 13, 2020 at roughly 3:00PM.
I was constantly asked to mediate between the two teams, whereas as even as a diabetic I was asked to not eat on the floor, while the Two Semi-Permanent workers continued to eat on the floor with the entire Scanning Team.
Infractions, incidents, irregularities continued as the Two Semi-Permanent workers were promoted in supervisory roles of both teams by Supervisor, when Assistant Supervisor was advised to leave by Supervisor from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. Republican-BOE Member was called by my person, whereas Supervisor was present at 4:00pm advising on Ballot Team to leave and would be called if necessary as prompted by recommendations made by Two Semi-Permanent workers, and Scanning Team, absent of my person.
I trained all the ballot Opening Team on the Scanning of Ballots before Personnel Dismissed at 5:00pm. After, Ballot Opening Team dismissed, my person questioned Supervisor on interpretation of the said promotions and eliminations of need for additional scanning personnel to finish process, and lack of diverse representations, Superior replied, “I have an election to run. I am not going to worry about that today.” I observed a majority Ballot Opening Team, mostly Black very upset.
Socially, the Scanning Team, absent of my person went to lunch and shared stories of voters needing to require voters to take a test to vote Absentee, and whereas I replied in one particular instance, “that would be considered a Literacy Test under the Voting Rights Act, and is illegal.’ And which they replied, “that’s crazy,’ as they proceeded to discuss poll taxes in causal conversation.
Sunday, June 14, 2020, I walked into a segregated staff. The ballot team consist of half black and white segregated except for a Republican BOE-member working with Black personnel. I was asked upon arrival to work in the back of the warehouse to which I personally moved a table to the front of the warehouse near the Scanning Equipment.
Monday, June 15, 2020, I was the only known democrat on the Scanning Team, and whereas no black personnel present the entire day. I addressed the issues of nepotism with Supervisor who advised if not witnessed, behavior did not happen. Supervisor was unaware and again replied, “will take into consideration in the future.”
Tuesday, June 16, 2020, one black personnel was called by Assistant Superior. Scanning Team absent of my person addressed issue and asked to send black personnel member home. Upon arrival at 9:00am personnel member was asked to come work with me, and I advised that she could speak for herself. I also spoke up about the issue of marginalization to a majority white republican representation. I also asked the team what the root issue is causing such marginalization. Again, addressed issues of nepotism and cronyism with the Supervisor and Board and no immediate action was taken. The Majority Republican scanning team appointed three additional members, which were two white women republican women and one black republican woman. Members all left at promptly 5:00pm. Supervisor also considered the Two Semi-Permanent workers full elections staff with the ability to work as Full Capacity of regular Elections BOE Staff.
Wednesday, the same members present left at 2:00pm. However, two family members were asked to come in by Supervisor to finish scanning and duplicating ballots, while I chose to leave no longer able to condone the behavior in the BOE.
Also, observed violations Georgia State Rule 183-1-14-0.7-.15, whereas multiple diverse personnel of different party affiliations to adequately adjudicate Absentee Ballots.
I observed several black women marginalized and treated unfairly as second-class citizens. While one group of women were able to experience the full extent of their rights, one group was marginalized entirely at their expense. When anyone spoke up or addressed concerns, personnel were told the individual was having emotional outbursts and/or dismissed as the Supervisor has quote, “an election to run.”
Upon personal observations and hearing community solutions, these are our following recommendations:
1. Supervisor and staff must be internally evaluated and asked to attend cultural competence training by the STATE-Board of Elections and in alignment with Georgia State Rule 183-1-14-0.7-.15, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment.
2. An equal representation of personnel must follow and represent Absentee Processing Staff in the August 2020 Run-off Primary and in alignment with Georgia State Rule 183-1-14-0.7-.15, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment.
3. An internal audit should accompany evaluations of immediate STATE-Board of Elections oversight upon recommendations of both Republican and Democratic leaders, and in alignment with Georgia State Rule 183-1-14-0.7-.15, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment.
4. Supervisor must adhere all staff are trained and up-to-date on all federal, state and local employment and civil rights laws, and in alignment with Georgia State Rule 183-1-14-0.7-.15, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment.
5. Regular Elections Board or Voter Registration Staff must always be present with the Absentee Processing Staff.
6. Scanners must actually be down when reported to media.
I urge you to support and learn the true issues associated with all concerns addressed by Absentee Processing Team staff throughout the State of Georgia. Thank you for your consideration.