Originally created 07/12/98

Taliaferro's odd count 071298 - The Augusta Chronicle



A county is doing excellently if 60 percent of its population is registered to vote -- the average is much lower than that -- so what do you make of rural Taliaferro County where there are 522 more voters than residents?

Anyone with a grain of common sense knows a registration figure of more than 100 percent suggests there's a lot of vote fraud going on. This is what can happen due to a ridiculous Georgia law that literally invites unscrupulous (or paid) voters to vote in two (or more) jurisdictions.

It's legal for persons to vote in their former county of residence even after they establish residence elsewhere -- if they claim they plan to return someday to their old residence to live.

"We got people who haven't lived here in 15 years coming by and registering for absentee ballots," complains Lois Richards, a retired probate judge challenging Taliaferro County's registration policies. She believes people come from as far away as Atlanta or Columbus to vote.

With U.S. Census figures showing more voters than residents, all those extra votes have to be coming from somewhere. Yet neither chief Registrar Edwin Sigman nor County Commission Chairman Charles Ware see anything unusual in this.

Ware, who is black, says he believes the white ex-judge is heading up a conspiracy to deprive African Americans of their voting rights. Sigman says names can't be taken off the voting list unless someone can prove they're ineligible -- a Herculean task for an ordinary citizen like Richards unless she can get help from the secretary of state's office, Georgia's supposed enforcer of honest elections. But she better not hold her breath.

Lewis Massey holds the state secretary's post and he's too busy running for governor to do his primary job: ensuring clean elections. In one recent month, he slated only six hours for official business. Worse, he won't resign to let somebody else do his job.

Other statewide officeholders, such as Attorney General Mike Bowers and Labor Secretary David Poythress, stepped down to make their gubernatorial runs. But not Massey. He wants a public office to return to if his Democrat primary bid goes down in flames.

It doesn't look like anything will be done to straighten out Taliaferro's irregularities before the fall elections. With the potential for vote fraud made so easy, honest voters can only speculate on how many other rural counties there are like Taliaferro's; how widespread the problem really is.