Georgia’s State Election Board took a step toward eventual takeover of elections in the state’s most populous county on Wednesday.
Last month, Republican lawmakers asked the state board to appoint a performance review panel to look into Fulton’s election handling.
The Republican lawmakers who requested the review stated that they want to ensure that election officials in the county, which has approximately 11% of the state’s electorate, have followed state voting laws and regulations.
The new law allows lawmakers who represent a specific county to request a review of local election officials. That is the county board of registration and elections in Fulton County. The review board will be made up of “three competent people,” including an employee of the secretary of state’s elections division and two “local election officials.”
The review panel approved by the state board includes:
- Stephen Day, a Democratic appointee to the Gwinnett County election board
- Ricky Kittle, a Republican appointee to the Catoosa County election board
- Ryan Germany, general counsel for the secretary of state’s office
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.
The investigation is to be followed by a preliminary hearing within 90 days of the receipt of the original request. During that preliminary hearing, the State Election Board is to decide whether the matter should be dismissed or whether it should proceed to a full hearing.
The state board has the authority to suspend the county board if it discovers evidence that county officials violated state election law or rules three times since 2018 and have not corrected the violations. It may also remove the county board if it finds that the board engaged in “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence” in at least two elections over a two-year period.
The State Election Board 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.