OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion
Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous county, and seat of Democratic power in the state is under review for a possible, eventual takeover of its elections by Georgia’s State Election Board.
The move has commenced under a process outlined in Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which was recently passed, according to Fox News.
On Wednesday, the State Election Board voted unanimously to approve a bipartisan three-person review panel to investigate Fulton County, which includes most of the city of Atlanta and makes up around 11 percent of the state’s electorate.
The county has been subject to criticism from Republican lawmakers who have scrutinized its voting practices after President Trump and his allies made as-yet-to-be-unproven claims that widespread fraud in Fulton county contributed to his narrow defeat in the US 2020 election.
Efforts by the Trump campaign persist despite pushback from Democrats, who reject his accusations.
In July, Republican lawmakers asked the state board to appoint a performance review panel to investigate Fulton’s handling of elections, setting off the process that would enable the Republican-controlled state board to replace Fulton County’s board of registration and elections with an administrator of the board’s choosing.
As detailed by Fox News, Fulton County accounts for around 11 percent of Georgia’s voting electorate. President Biden officially won nearly 73 percent of votes cast in last year’s election.
U.S. Census data shows the county is made up of almost equal parts white and black residents followed by Asians. The county is 45.5 percent white, 44.5 percent black, and 7.6 percent Asian.
Sara Tindall Ghazal, the solitary Democrat on the State Election Board, said that the board is required by law to appoint a panel after reaching the lawmakers’ request.
She made her comments before voting to approve the review panel. She added that she expects the board to be under “tremendous political pressure on both sides.”
“The narrative driving this pressure has been influenced by disinformation surrounding the November 2020 election, but the fact remains that Fulton County voters have reported numerous problems for far longer than November 2020, particularly surrounding registration and absentee ballots,” Ghazal said. “I urge Fulton County to review this performance review board as an opportunity to have fresh eyes on their systems and procedures and identify areas of improvement.”
According to Matt Mashburn, a Republican member of the State Election Board, the panel has diverse representation with a Democrat from the Atlanta area and a Republican from a rural part of the state.
It also has a lawyer from the Secretary of States’ office. Mashburn says that the panel has been “carefully balanced to reflect all interests so that the accusations that we heard in the press that this is just a Republican hatchet job against Fulton County is not reflected by this slate of candidates.”
He added that it would be nice if the panel’s assessment of Fulton county not only identifies problems, but also reflects solutions that have already been identified or put in place.
“I encourage Fulton to keep trying to improve and not just throw up their hands and say it’s all in the hands of the board now,” he said, Fox News reported.
Republican lawmakers responsible for implementing the review said that they want to ensure that election officials in Fulton County have been following state voting laws and regulations.
The move has seen pushback from Democrats and so-called voting rights activists, who argue that the provision could allow political interference in local elections.
The critics say that the takeover provision in the state law has said from the beginning that the legislation would be used to target Fulton County.
Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts argued that the endeavor is driven by false claims of fraud directed by Trump and his supporters.
“While I understand the State Elections Board had no choice in this matter, it is still outrageous to see the Big Lie and demands of conspiracy theorists continue to progress,” Pitts said following the appointment of the board. “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.”
Fox News reports:
Under the new law, lawmakers who represent a given county may request a review of local election officials. 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 issuing a report after conducting a thorough investigation into the competency in the maintenance and operation of election equipment, the administration of registration and elections, as well as compliance with state law.
According to Fox News, the investigation will be followed up by a preliminary hearing within 90 days of the receipt of the original request.
At that hearing, the State Election Board will decide if it should be dismissed or whether it should proceed to a full hearing.
Depending on what they find, the State Election Board could suspend the county board if it finds evidence that county officials violated state election law or rules three times or more since 2018 and have not remedied those violations.
It could also decide to remove the county board in its entirety if it finds during at least two elections over two years the board has shown “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence.”
The State Election Board stands at a 3 to 1 Republican majority, would appoint a temporary administrator to take charge of elections in the county if it finds wrongdoing.
The county has the option to seek reinstatement at the power of the state board. Should the state board reject the reinstatement, the administrator would remain in place for at least nine months.
The administrator, if appointed, has the authority to make changes to personnel, including replacing the director of elections and all poll workers.
Article Source : Conservativebrief.com