Originally created 10/07/04

Board to investigate GOP ballot mailing



ATLANTA - The Georgia Election Board has ordered an investigation into a mailing the Republican Party sent statewide that allegedly violated election law by attaching absentee-ballot forms to political fliers.

The board also decided to instruct local elections officials to give an absentee ballot to any registered voter who submits one of the forms from the mailing.

"We want to err on the side of not disenfranchising any voter," board spokeswoman Cara Hodgson said, adding that voters would not be punished for any wrongdoing that might have been done by a political party.

On Friday, one group of local officials, the Richmond County Board of Elections, held an emergency meeting and came to the same conclusion, as long as ballot requests were no longer attached to the fliers when submitted.

State board member David Worley brought the mailing to the Georgia board's attention Sept. 30. He's the past chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party.

On Wednesday, Mr. Worley's successor as party chairman, Bobby Kahn, filed a formal complaint with the board. He said the law prohibiting the practice was enacted in response to a similar GOP mailing in 2000.

"The Georgia Republican Party has specifically and deliberately chosen to ignore that statute," Mr. Kahn writes. "It is obvious that they will continue to engage in this illegal activity until the State Election Board sends them a message that seeking advantage by violating Georgia election law will not be tolerated."

Republican Party spokesman Marty Klein offered no apologies.

"We feel the mailing is appropriate," he said. "But again, the focus here should be on making sure people have an opportunity to vote."

Democrats estimate their rivals spent $123,500 on the mailing, which could have reached 500,000 mailboxes.