Fulton County’s elections board needs to regroup after two of its five members resigned amid scrutiny of the county’s botched handling of the presidential election, a county commissioner said Saturday.
Commissioner Robb Pitts said after an election board meeting that the group must quickly replace the two members so it can address last year’s string of polling problems.
“With the recent turnover, I’m more concerned than ever,” said Pitts, who has prepared a list of candidates for the board. “I want to move very quickly to get a qualified person in place regardless of party affiliation.”
Chairman Roderick Edmond, the county’s top elections official, stepped down Friday as the board prepared for a hearing in three weeks on the voting woes that have plagued the county. Another board member, attorney William Riley, cited his busy schedule as a reason for quitting two weeks ago.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose office oversees elections, has said the recent resignations underscore “the lack of dependable leadership” on the county’s elections board.
Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said the resignations offer a chance at a “fresh start” for the beleaguered board.
Fulton’s reputation for polling mishaps stretches back years. In 2008, absentee ballots were mishandled and the next year the county was fined $120,000 for tossing voter records into a trash bin.
But the problems reached a bitter crescendo last year when hundreds of voters were placed in the wrong state House and Senate districts during the primary. Former Elections Director Sam Westmoreland resigned in September because of DUI-related issues, but the poll problems continued.
In about three weeks, the state Election Board will review allegations of mismanagement that led the county to direct thousands of voters to cast paper ballots unnecessarily in November. That created ballot shortages and frustratingly long lines that may have led some to give up.
Edmond, who had been the appointed chairman of the elections board since 2009, said he’d step aside once commissioners name his replacement. He wasn’t at Saturday’s meeting, though the agenda listed him as the presiding officer.
The panel is made up of two members each appointed by the Democratic and Republican parties and a chair tapped by the County Commission.
“We need to have people on the board who are serious and committed and focused,” Pitts said. “Politics aside, what is most important here is fair elections so every citizen who wants to vote can vote.”