It was this year’s presidential election that led Deborah Whitworth to want to vote for the first time in two decades.
The Dallas resident took her husband to vote Oct. 29, the first day of advance voting in Paulding County. But when she attempted to vote at the Crossroads Library, she was told she had been “deleted out of the system.”
That news shocked Whitworth, who had been a registered voter during the 1992 presidential election—the last time she cast a ballot. But for 20 years she has remained at her same Cartersville Highway home, which led her to question why she could not vote despite staying put in Paulding. She said election officials had told her that she had been sent notices that warned her that she would be taken off the voter rolls, but she did not recall ever receiving any.
“[Election officials] told me when I registered to vote, the last time I voted, and they told me the years they sent me those notices that I don’t recall getting, but they said they sent them out two different times … and then they told me they deleted me from the system in 2007,” Whitworth said. “If they can do that in this day in time, if they delete you from the system, then they shouldn’t be able to pull up all that stuff on you.
“[I know] they have to delete people out of the system because of people dying and people moving out of the state of Georgia, and other reasons. But If you’re standing there and you’re a United States citizen and you’ve lived in the same place for eight, 10, 24 years, and you’ve got proof of that … they should be able to put you back in the system.”
Deidre Holden, supervisor of Paulding County Elections & Registration, said Whitworth’s situation is due to the state’s elections laws. Georgia Code 21-2-235 says the Secretary of State’s office must maintain a list of inactive voters, referred to as “electors” in the law. Those placed on the inactive list remain on there “until the day after the second November general election held after the elector is placed on the inactive list of electors.
“If the elector makes no contact … during that period, the elector shall be removed from the inactive list of electors,” the code section states.
“This is a state law and we must follow the law. It is the voter’s responsibility to make sure that their voter registration status is up to date,” Holden said. “Voters should not wait until a few days prior to the election to determine if their registration is active or not.”
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Whitworth says that while she now knows the law, she wants people to know that they should check their voter registration prior to the next election in which they want to vote if they have not participated in recent elections. “It would save some people a lot of heartache,” she said.
She also said she would not mind seeing legislators amend the law so others who may find themselves in situations like hers would have the chance to cast their ballots.
“My mother is 74, I took her to the library to get her registered to vote. If had thought that I was not going to be able to vote, I would have taken the time to re-register, but it had not dawned on me,” she said. “I thought once you registered, that was it, but that is not the case.
“In this day and time, with technology the way it is and with them being able to read all that [information] off to me, there should be some way or another with me standing there with my driver’s license in my hand with my photo and the same address I registered with 24 years ago [that I’d be allowed] to vote.
“If makes you feel like you’re annihilated. Like you’re not a citizen anymore. I know I am, but it really puts a bad feeling in your gut. But I know I can’t blame anybody for myself for not re-registering and not using my privilege for voting in previous years, but in those previous years, I didn’t feel like there was someone I wanted to vote for.”
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