Fulton County’s embattled elections office Wednesday edged closer to a possible state takeover of its operations.
The State Elections Board appointed a performance review panel to look into Fulton County’s election management. The review essentially puts Fulton – which has long wrestled with long lines during elections and other problems over the years – on the path to losing governance over its election system.
The performance review is part of a series of changes instituted under Georgia’s new elections reform law, the Georgia Election Integrity Act.
Under the new law, the panel has 60 days to investigate whether Fulton’s election system is mismanaged. Once the panel turns in its findings, the State elections board must hold a hearing on the matter. If it’s deemed necessary, the state would then have the authority to replace Fulton’s election board with a temporary superintendent who would oversee vote counting, polling places, staffing, and other administrative duties.
Efforts to reach Alex Wan, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections, were unsuccessful. Wan was installed as chairman in March.
Meanwhile, Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts, who is vehemently opposed to a state takeover, called the decision “shameful.”
“While I understand the State Election Board had no choice in this matter, it is still outrageous to see the Big Lie and demands of conspiracy theorists continue to progress,” Pitt said in a statement to Atlanta Civic Circle. “This is the result of a cynical ploy to undermine faith in our elections process and democracy itself. It is shameful partisan politics at its very worst.”
The state elections board has dealt with numerous cases involving Fulton in recent years – far exceeding other neighboring counties.
The three-member panel includes Stephen Day, a Democrat with the Gwinnett County Board of Election and Rickey Kittle, a Republican who chairs the Catoosa County Elections Board. Ryan Germany, general counsel for The Secretary of State’s office, also will serve on the panel.
Some state election board members noted the new law left them no other options but to call for the performance review. Some said they hope Fulton will cooperate and ultimately fix its problems to avoid a potential state takeover.
“I’m confident the panel will go into this with an open mind,” the State Election Board’s newest member Sara Tindall Ghazal said. Wednesday was Ghazal’s first board meeting.
The decision came during the State Election Board’s meeting Wednesday, which dealt with a raft of election and voting-related cases statewide, including one involving a questionable absentee ballot matter in Fulton County. That case was sent to the Attorney General’s office for a hearing.