Fulton County, Georgia’s most populated county and the state’s bastion of Democratic power, is being investigated by Georgia’s State Election Board for a possible takeover of its elections.
According to Fox News, the transfer is being carried out as part of a process described in Georgia’s newly passed sweeping new voting law.
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The State Election Board unanimously approved a nonpartisan three-person review panel to investigate Fulton County, which encompasses most of Atlanta and accounts for around 11% of the state’s electorate, on Wednesday.
Republican politicians have chastised the county’s voting processes in the aftermath of President Trump’s election.
In July, Republican lawmakers asked the state board to appoint a performance review panel to look into Fulton County’s election handling, kicking off a process that would allow the Republican-controlled state board to appoint an administrator to replace Fulton County’s board of registration and elections.
According to Fox News, Fulton County is home to about 11% of Georgia’s voting population. In last year’s election, President Biden received over 73 percent of the vote.
According to census data, the county’s population is approximately evenly split between white and black populations, followed by Asians. The county’s population is made up of 45.5 percent whites, 44.5 percent blacks, and 7.6 percent Hispanics.
The State Election Board’s lone Democrat, Sara Tindall Ghazal, said the board is compelled by law to appoint a panel after receiving the lawmakers’ request.
Before voting to authorize the review panel, she delivered her remarks. She went on to say that the board will be under “extreme political pressure on both sides.”
“While disinformation around the November 2020 election has distorted the narrative fueling this pressure, the fact remains that Fulton County voters have experienced multiple problems for far longer than November 2020, notably around registration and absentee ballots,” Ghazal stated. “I strongly urge Fulton County to conduct a review of the performance review board.
The panel has diversified representation, according to Matt Mashburn, a Republican member of the State Election Board, with a Democrat from the Atlanta area and a Republican from a rural part of the state.
A lawyer from the Secretary of State’s office is also there. According to Mashburn, the panel has been “well balanced to reflect various interests” so that “accusations in the news that this is essentially a Republican hatchet job against Fulton County are not reflected by this slate of candidates.”
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He went on to say that the panel’s assessment of Fulton County should not only identify concerns, but also reflect remedies that have already been discovered or implemented.
According to Fox News, he stated, “I encourage Fulton to keep striving to improve and not simply throw up their hands and say it’s all in the hands of the board now.”
Republican lawmakers in charge of the investigation said they want to make sure that election officials in Fulton County are abiding by state voting laws and regulations.
Democrats and so-called voting rights advocates have criticized the proposal, claiming that it could allow political intervention in local elections.
Critics claim that the state law’s takeover provision said from the start that the measure would be used to target Fulton County.
Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, Robb Pitts, stated that the effort is motivated by bogus allegations of fraud made by Trump and his followers.
“While I appreciate the State Elections Board had no choice in this matter,” Pitts stated after the board’s appointment, “it is nevertheless appalling to watch the Big Lie and demands of conspiracy theorists continue to progress.” “This is the outcome of a cynical strategy to erode trust in our electoral process and democracy itself – it is disgusting partisan politics at its worst.”
According to Fox News:
According to the new law, parliamentarians representing a particular county can request an investigation of local election authorities. The review board will be made up of “three competent persons,” including an employee of the secretary of state’s elections division and two “local election authorities.”
After performing a thorough investigation of competency in the maintenance and operation of election equipment, the administration of registration and elections, and conformity with state law, the review board is entrusted with delivering a report.
The probe will be followed up with a preliminary hearing within 90 days after the receipt of the original complaint, according to Fox News.
The State Election Board will decide whether the case should be dismissed or referred to a full hearing during that hearing.
If the State Election Board discovers proof that county authorities have broken state election law or rules three times or more since 2018 and have not addressed those violations, the State Election Board may suspend the county board.
It might even opt to remove the entire county board if it believes the board has engaged in “nonfeasance, misconduct, or gross negligence” in at least two elections in the last two years.
The State Election Board, which is dominated by Republicans (3 to 1), would appoint a temporary administrator to oversee elections in the county.
The county has the option of petitioning the state board for reinstatement. The administrator would remain in position for at least nine months if the state board rejected the reinstatement.
If appointed, the administrator has the power to make staff changes, including replacing the director of elections and all poll workers.