Atlanta Black students forced to cast provisional ballots

Four Georgia State students tell ThinkProgress they don't understand why they couldn't cast traditional ballots.

Jermaine Noble and Nicholas Perry, both first-time voters and freshman at Georgia State, had to cast provisional ballots. (CREDIT: Kira Lerner for ThinkProgress)
Jermaine Noble and Nicholas Perry, both first-time voters and freshman at Georgia State, had to cast provisional ballots. (CREDIT: Kira Lerner for ThinkProgress)

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Poll workers at a church in southeast Atlanta are forcing students, many of whom are African American and first-time voters, to cast provisional ballots without explanation or clear instructions on how they can make sure their votes are counted.

Two Georgia State University students, Nicholas Perry and Jermaine Noble, told ThinkProgress that poll workers at the Liberty Baptist Church gave them provisional ballots without explanation. Election Protection volunteers at the polling location followed up with poll workers, but were told once the students’ ballots were submitted, there was no way to cast a traditional ballot.

Perry explained that the poll worker told him his address on file was still his home address, but he knew – and had verified before Election Day – that he’d registered with his campus address. He blamed Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who he said has been using various tactics to prevent young people and voters of color from casting ballots.

“I don’t know how that shit’s allowed, to be honest,” Perry said.

A third student, 18-year-old freshman Noelle Higgins, told ThinkProgress she was initially told she’d have to cast a provisional ballot because her student ID wasn’t a valid form of voter ID.


“I gave my Georgia State ID, and they told me I couldn’t vote because it didn’t have my birthdate on it,” she said. “So I came out here to the election representatives and they sorted it out so I could vote.”

She said the poll workers were likely misinformed, and she would have gone home had election protection workers not been standing outside. “I was nervous,” she said.

A fourth student, 21-year-old Arianna Brown, said she waited an hour and a half to vote. When she got up to vote, poll workers told her she’d have to cast a provisional ballot because the address listed on her student ID wasn’t in Fulton County, where she goes to school.

“They told all the Georgia State students that,” she told ThinkProgress.

Brown waited an additional hour in line to cast a provisional ballot.

When asked why students are being forced to cast provisional ballots, the election manager at Liberty Baptist Church told ThinkProgress to leave the polling location. “The information you’re getting is inaccurate,” she said.


Dean Phillips, an Election Protection volunteer, told ThinkProgress he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that so many students and voters of color are being given provisional ballots.

He also pointed out that if voters show up to the wrong precinct, poll workers typically tell them the correct polling location before sending them away. “They’re not doing that,” he said about the Liberty Baptist Church. “They’re just handing out provisional ballots.”

“Why is this place giving out provisional ballots like it’s candy?” he added.

Given the confusion, he said the percentage of students who follow up with the necessary information to make sure their provisional ballots are counted “is going to be very low.”