Salon: Georgia GOP called “shameless” for trying to use new voting law to oust local election officials
Salon: Georgia GOP called "shameless" for trying to use new voting law to oust local election officials
Georgia Republicans are already trying to use their controversial new election law to drive out local election officials in the state’s largest and most Democratic county.
Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year signed SB 202, a law that not only restricts ballot access but allows state officials to temporarily take over county election boards. This has raised concerns about potential Republican election subversion after the party lost the presidential race and both U.S. Senate elections in the state amid record voter turnout. Republican lawmakers wasted no time using the law to target election officials in Fulton County, which includes most of of the city of Atlanta and has a population of more than a million people, about 44% of them Black. President Biden won 72.6% of the vote in Fulton County, outperforming Hillary Clinton’s 2016 total by 83,000 votes. The county has been the a primary target of former President Donald Trump’s false election claims and multiple lawsuits filed by his supporters, although there has been no evidence of fraud or misconduct.
Republicans representing the county in the state legislature called for a performance review of the country’s election board in July, which Scott Hogan, the head of the state Democratic Party, decried as a “shameless Republican power grab designed to suppress voters and inject partisan politics into our elections.”
“It appears that they would like to take over the county board of elections,” Aunna Dennis, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in an interview with Salon, calling the move part of a “coordinated strategy” that represents Republican “opposition to, basically, democracy.” …
The county has certainly had its share of election problems, including long lines at polling locations. The State Election Board entered into a consent order with the county after voters endured hours-long lines in last year’s primary elections, which Democrats largely blamed on a statewide effort to shutter hundreds of polling places after a Supreme Court decision gutting a section of the Voting Rights Act and a lack of resources provided by the Republican-led state legislature.
“It’s definitely a result of underfunding,” Dennis said, noting that Republicans who claim to be concerned about election management in Fulton County “are not really trying to invest in helping the board of elections operationalize their offices” amid a pandemic. “Let’s not try to take them over, let’s try to actually be solution maker and mitigate the barriers, not create more barriers,” she said. …
Voting rights groups have sounded the alarm over the possibility that an appointee of the Republican-led state board would be in charge of election administration in a county that is crucial to Democratic electoral prospects in Georgia.
“We’ll have appointees that don’t live in the jurisdiction, that don’t reside in counties as populous or as robust,” said Dennis of Common Cause Georgia. “That’s kind of the fear, that we will have representation that does not match the community” and no say over “any of the implementations of laws or structuring of the election board, nor any say in the inner workings, even down to suggesting new precinct locations and trying to do voter education campaigns with the board of elections. All these things that we have been able to do as a community — we will no longer be able to do that if this takeover happens.”
Dennis also warned that “whatever happens in Fulton is going to domino across the state” and that if this approach is successful for Republicans, other states with GOP-majority legislatures could soon follow.
“This would become a domino effect across many states,” she said. “If it happens in Georgia, people should definitely be looking out to see if major counties, and definitely progressive counties or cities who have large voting populations, will be targets as well.”