Nuwaubians may try to have
Group's attorney planning appeal to get members back on
The Macon Telegraph, June 23, 2000
By Rob Peecher
EATONTON - An attorney representing members of the United
Nuwaubian Nation of Moors may go to court to try to stop
Putnam County elections until his clients are returned to
the county's voter rolls.
The Putnam County Board of Registrars voted during a hearing
Wednesday to remove another 13 individuals from county voter
rolls; 23 people were removed during a similar hearing last
week. Most, if not all, of the 36 are affiliated with the
Merrick Bernstein, an Atlanta attorney representing at least
some of the Nuwaubians, said he will appeal the board's
rulings on behalf of his clients who were purged from the
"We will request (the appeals) be considered in an expedited
manner," Bernstein said.
If the appeals are not considered by a Superior Court judge
quickly, and his clients are unable to vote in the July 18
primary because their appeals have not been heard, Bernstein
said he will ask the court to keep the county from holding
"We will seek to enjoin all elections in Putnam County until
these issues are settled," Bernstein said. "Obviously we're
very disappointed in the results of the hearing. A number of
valid electors of Putnam County got disqualified and lost
their critical and essential right to vote." Bernstein said
the hearing was "improperly designed" to remove Nuwaubians
from the county's voter list.
Of the 93 cases that were supposed to be heard during the
nearly five-hour hearing Wednesday evening, 13 individuals
were purged from voter rolls, eight were kept on and 72
cases were continued to a later date. Most of the cases
before the board Wednesday had been continued from last
In most cases, those who were purged Wednesday presented
testimony and some documented evidence that they reside in
Putnam County. However, at least some presented only a
Georgia driver's licenses or Georgia identification cards
obtained after last week's hearing. In other cases, the
board found testimony or evidence lacking, said board member
Trenton Brown III, who conducted both hearings.
"It is the burden of the one being challenged to offer
evidence to show the question that led to the challenge was
unwarranted," Brown said. It was up to the board members'
discretion as to whether a person's testimony and evidence
were sufficient to prove the person lived at the address
claimed on voter registration cards, Brown said. "I didn't
give a Georgia driver's license made the day of last week's
hearing much weight," he said.
For the most part, the challenges were based on the number
of individuals living at one address. At 173 Shady Dale
Road, for instance, there were 35 people registered to vote
at that address, where there are three singlewide trailers
and a house.
Brown said Bernstein was telling witnesses what to say while
they were being questioned by the board, and when questions
arose about other people living in the same household,
witnesses sometimes read their names from a list.
"Everything was so questionable last night," Brown said. "It
was blatant that they were being fed answers from their
attorney or reading straight from the list. ... But that
wasn't a controlling factor. I can't say it wasn't odd, them
having to think about who was living with them and maybe
coming up with a first name. ... The challenge shows that
you've questioned what they put on the (voter registration
card); verbal testimony's not going to do it."
Bernstein denied that he was telling his clients what to say
when they were being questioned by the board, and he said
the new driver's licenses and identification cards were
obtained on his advice. "The list they were reading from was
a list we prepared to refresh their minds," Bernstein said,
adding that many of his clients had never been in a court
setting before and were nervous.
Brown said if individuals could provide bills, letters from
family and friends, tax returns or other dated information
showing their address, that was the evidence he gave the
most weight to.
Bernstein echoed the opinion of his clients that the county
is merely attempting to remove those associated with the
Nuwaubian group from the voter rolls before the July 18
"All of the people who showed up at the hearing are valid
residents of Putnam County," Bernstein said. "That's our
belief and our understanding. What's funny is that the
notice of hearing was mailed to the address (being
questioned), and they got the notice of hearing."
Though he admitted that at some of the addresses being
questioned there are an unusual number of adults living in
small houses, Bernstein said that is the way his clients
have chosen to live.
"Some of us live different lifestyles than others,"