Politics Georgia board to tap election review panel for Fulton County
Pennsylvania county’s election audit financier still unknown after Senate hearing
It’s still not clear who financed an audit of Fulton County’s election equipment earlier this year, or how much it cost, despite persistent questions from the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee during its first hearing on the matter Thursday afternoon. © Provided by Washington Examiner Fulton County Commission Chairman Stewart Ulsh testified before lawmakers that he never considered how expensive the probe – first suggested to him by Sen. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg in the weeks following the 2020 election – might be and confirmed only that it did not cost anything for taxpayers.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Board of Elections plans to appoint a review panel this week as part of a process that could lead to a takeover of elections in the state's most populous county under a provision in the state's sweeping.
Republican lawmakers cited the new law whenthe state board last month to appoint the performance review board to investigate Fulton County's handling of elections. The board plans to appoint the panel during its meeting Wednesday.
Georgia GOP-controlled board inches toward possible takeover of elections in Fulton County
The Republican-controlled Georgia State Election Board inched toward a possible takeover of elections in Fulton County after a Wednesday vote to appoint a bipartisan panel to investigate Fulton County. © Provided by Washington Examiner Republicans in Georgia have long sought state control of the election review process in Fulton County, especially after it rendered a key victory for Democrats in the 2020 election. The county was also one of the key locations of former President Donald Trump's election fraud claims, despite an independent monitor finding no evidence of irregularities.
The heavily Democratic county includes most of the city of Atlanta and is home to about 11% of the state's active registered voters. Former President Donald Trump fixated on the county after his narrow loss last year in Georgia, pushing unfounded claims of fraud as evidence the election was stolen from him.
The GOP lawmakers seeking the review say they are concerned about sloppiness in the administration of the county's elections and want a review board to assess whether local officials have been complying with state voting laws and regulations.
Democrats and voting rights activists have said the new takeover provision in state law leaves the door open for political interference in the electoral process and could allow suppression of votes. They've said the county conducted a successful election last year and the review is unnecessary.
Georgia board takes step toward possible takeover of Atlanta-area elections
Georgia's Republican-controlled State Election Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a bipartisan review panel to investigate the handling of elections in the state's most populous county.The vote serves as another step toward a potential state takeover of elections in Fulton County, which includes the city of Atlanta."It is both my hope and expectation that the members of the review board who have been nominated today will take their jobs very seriously and will engage in the review with the singular goal in mind," election board member Sara Tindall Ghazal said, NBC reported.
Under the new law, lawmakers who represent a given county may request a review of local election officials, defined in the law as the election superintendent. In Fulton County, that's the county board of registration and elections.
Once the State Election Board receives such a request, it has to appoint a review board within 30 days. The review board is to be composed of “three competent persons," including an employee of the elections division of the secretary of state's office and two “local election officials.”
The review board is tasked with conducting a complete and thorough investigation into the competency in the maintenance and operation of election equipment, the administration and oversight of registration and elections and compliance with state law and regulations. Then the board is to issue a report with evaluations and recommendations.
Based on a recommendation by the review board, the governing authority of the county can petition to have the county election board suspended, or the State Election Board can take that action on its own. The State Election Board would then do a preliminary investigation followed by a preliminary hearing.
Georgia Elections Board Unanimously Approves Panel to Investigate Fulton County Processes
Fulton County has long been the target of Republican lawmakers' ire.Fulton County is a largely Democratic region, and GOP lawmakers asked the state board last month to look into how the area handled elections and said they want to make sure county election officials abided by state voting laws.
Video: GOP-led panel to review Fulton County's elections (MSNBC)
During that preliminary hearing, which would be held within 90 days of the receipt of the petition, the State Election Board would decide whether the matter should be dismissed or whether it should proceed to a full hearing.
The state board could suspend the county board if it finds evidence county officials violated state election law or rules three times since 2018 and have not fixed violations. It could also remove the county board if it finds that during at least two elections over two years the board has shown “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence.”
The State Election Board, currently with a 3-1 Republican majority, would appoint a temporary administrator to run Fulton County elections if it finds wrongdoing. The county board could seek reinstatement. If the state board refuses, its administrator would remain in place for at least nine months. The administrator would have the authority to make any personnel changes related to running elections, including replacing the director of elections and all poll officers.
Georgia Secretary of State Threatens to Remove Election Board After It Appoints New Leader
"Fulton County needs to think again before appointing someone who is bought and paid for by Stacey Abrams to run elections in Fulton County," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said.The Fulton County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday voted to make Cathy Woolard, a former Atlanta City Council president, chair for the county's Board of Registration and Elections.
The state board also is charged with setting rules for conducting a preliminary investigation and hearing. Once the rules are proposed, they will be subject to a public comment period before they can be adopted.
Fulton County has a long history of election problems and has been a favorite punching bag for Republicans. The county's primary election last year was, including hourslong lines and absentee ballots that were requested and never received.
County officials acknowledged the problems, but said many of the most serious issues were related to the coronavirus pandemic. They spent millions of dollars andahead of the general election in November to ensure a smoother performance. An independent monitor was also appointed as part of a consent order reached entered into by the county and the State Election Board.
County board may announce action on Arizona Senate subpoena
PHOENIX (AP) — Board members overseeing Arizona’s most populous county could say Friday whether they will comply with a state Senate subpoena in an unprecedented partisan review of 2020 election results. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a decision last month that Maricopa County must comply with the subpoena issued by Republican Senate President Karen Fann or lose about $700 million in yearly state funding. The Senate wants the county board to hand over computer routers for examination by contractors conducting the review.
That monitor, Carter Jones, observed Fulton County's election processes from October through January. He wrote that he“sloppy processes” and “systemic disorganization” but did not see “any illegality, fraud or intentional malfeasance.” He concluded major changes and a managerial shakeup were needed.
While Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has vigorously defended the integrity of the state's election results, he has often criticized Fulton County and has repeatedly called for the firing of the county elections director Rick Barron and registration chief Ralph Jones.
Barron survived the county election board's attempt earlier this yearafter the county the election board's recommendation. In a letter dated July 16, Ralph Jones announced his resignation as registration chief, effective Aug. 6.
This story was first published on Aug. 17, 2021. It was updated on Aug. 20, 2021 to remove an erroneous reference to a 90-day deadline for the review panel’s investigation. There is no specified time limit on the panel’s investigation. This story also clarifies what happens after the review panel finishes investigating.
Arizona election audit: Draft report confirms Biden defeated Trump in Maricopa County last November .
The partisan review of Maricopa County's 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 election found a vote count nearly identical to what the county had previously reported, a draft report detailing its findings shows. © Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images Former Secretary of State Ken Bennett works to move ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.