ALBANY — An Albany City Commission member is catching heat for her work with a Texas-based group that challenged election rolls in several Georgia counties.
On Tuesday, the Albany-Dougherty Branch of the NAACPP called for the commission to condemn Commissioner B.J. Fletcher’s actions in relation to the challenge, referencing the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol that took place during certification of the Electoral College presidential vote.
Fletcher, an Albany restaurant owner who represents Ward III, filed a challenge to more than 2,700 voters registered in Dougherty County ahead of the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoff elections in the state on behalf of Texas-based True the Vote.
The group also challenged voters in Ben Hill and Muscogee counties.
The challenge to the voters in Dougherty County was denied by the Albany-Dougherty County Joint Board of Registration and Elections. The board also rejected another challenge, filed by another individual, challenging seven voters registered in the county that were claimed to live out of state.
“In December 2020, one week before the general runoff election for the state of Georgia, Commissioner B.J. Fletcher filed a challenge against the Dougherty County Board of Elections in an effort to disqualify thousands of people from being able to vote,” the NAACP said in a statement. “She falsely accused these voters of committing voter fraud by challenging the validity of their residence.
“As white supremacists attacked the U.S. Capitol last week, B.J. Fletcher contributed to an environment that empowered white supremacists and insurrectionists by working with organizations like True the Vote, championing Stop the Steal and exploiting the black community. She has proven to be a danger to our democracy and to this community.”
During a telephone interview, Amna Farooqi, interim president of the Albany-Dougherty County NAACP, said that the invasion of the Capitol that left five people dead, included participation from southwest Georgia residents.
An Americus attorney and a Pelham man have been arrested and charged in connection with the invasion of the Capitol building.
During a telephone interview, Farooqi said that the organization is calling for Fletcher to at the least apologize.
“I would want her to come out and condemn that and make it clear,” she said. “That’s what we want to do, hold her accountable.”
Fletcher said her involvement with True the Vote has been beset with misinformation that has allowed detractors to “blow this out of proportion.”
“I’m not sure why this was so blown out of proportion,” Fletcher said in an email to The Albany Herald. “It was actually very simple. The state hadn’t cleaned its voter rolls in two years; 2,700 people in Dougherty County had notified the USPS that they’d permanently changed their residence. So I submitted challenges for review.
“A citizen challenge is a right given to Georgia citizens — to all citizens — and it allows us to ask the county to take a look and help ensure election integrity, which benefits us all. What should have happened is, if a voter came in who was on the challenged list, they would have been asked to verify their residence. The law gives them time to do this, it’s not difficult at all, and it would likely have applied to very few voters because most of them have moved and aren’t going to try to vote. But like so many things these days, it became hyper-political. I was accused of being a vote suppressor, my business was doxed, and now I’m here. But I’m glad I get a chance to explain it.”
Fletcher said Young and members of the NAACP accused her of trying to “suppress black voters,” but said the breakdown of the voters questioned by True the Vote paints a different picture.
“I want to give you the breakdown of challenges in Dougherty County, by race, because I’ve been accused of this being racially motivated,” the Ward III commissioner said. “I had no idea what the racial breakdown was because the challenges were based only on residence. Georgia includes race in the voter rolls, so I went back to take a look.
“The breakdown of the challenges includes:
♦ black not of Hispanic origin: 43.55%
♦ white not of Hispanic origin: 40.65%
♦ unknown: 12.26%
♦ Hispanic: 1.42%
♦ other: 1%.”
Prior to a news conference conducted by Farooqi, Ward VI Albany Commissioner Demetrius Young tried to bring the issue up during a Tuesday morning commission meeting.
Ward IV Commissioner Chad Warbington objected to the discussion, and Mayor Bo Dorough agreed to place the issue on the agenda at the next meeting.
The item was not on the agenda, Warbington said, and Robert’s Rules of Order, under which meetings are conducted, prohibits personal comments about members.
“We are not a judicial body,” he said. “This meeting is not to have conversations about each other.”
The city’s charter has no provision for censuring a commission member, City Attorney Nathan Davis told commissioners.
“This has to do with actions and comments of a sitting member of the City Commission,” Young said. “I don’t think this ought to be swept under the rug. We are talking about what somebody says, what somebody does, that puts other people in jeopardy.”