Roswell approves joining north Fulton cities’ coalition to manage their own local elections

Credit: Karen Zitomer

Credit: Karen Zitomer

Roswell plans to partner with other north Fulton cities in an effort to administer local elections in their respective jurisdictions.

Some Roswellians in support of the move want the city to move forward cautiously.

During a special-called meeting on Monday, Roswell City Council voted unanimously to start taking steps to conduct its own local elections, the first of which would take place in November. (Councilmembers Peter Vanstrom and Mike Palermo were absent.)

Roswell, Milton, Alpharetta, Mountain Park and Johns Creek are considering hiring a superintendent to manage municipal elections for the five cities instead of Fulton County. Officials say it would save their cities tens of thousands of dollars. (Sandy Springs does not have an election this November.)

Milton is leading the move for change after producing its own feasibility study and sharing it with the sister cities. Milton and Alpharetta have approved similar votes to Roswell in decisions to hold their own elections.

Roswell Councilwoman Lee Hills said she has been assured by city attorney David Davidson that Roswell can set-up a municipal election within nine months. Numerous residents were in support of the measure during public comment at Monday’s meeting.

Councilwoman Christine Hall said the idea to manage its own election was considered more than a year ago by former Mayor Lori Henry’s administration.

But others questioned whether Roswell has enough time to prepare for a November election.

“... I think the demand is there,” Councilwoman Sarah Beeson said of Roswell residents. “I think the ability to correctly manage the elections, that skill is potentially there.

“My concern moving forward is the timeline.”

The cities are planning to form an intergovernmental agreement with Fulton as a backup plan allowing the county to administer elections if something doesn’t work out in the local process.

“This can be aborted,” Roswell Mayor Kurt Wilson said. “We’re not going headlong into a disaster … (saying) … ‘we’ve got to do this.’”

According to Roswell, the city paid Fulton $373,000 to administer its local election in 2021 and the county wants to increase that amount to nearly $677,800, an increase of nearly $6 per voter.

Fulton County Commissioner Dana Barrett, who was sharing only her views and not opinions of the commission body, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that estimated cost increases can be misleading. Cities were charged $3 per voter but that was only a portion of the total cost for municipal elections, she said.

Fulton’s actual cost for municipal elections was over $6 in 2021, Barrett said, adding that the county paid $2.7 million for municipal elections that year.

“We are essentially not in control of the costs of elections … or in control of the laws that are made at the state level that actually have caused a significant increase in the cost of elections,” she said.

Barrett said the north Fulton cities could benefit by allowing more time to prepare and waiting until the 2025 election cycle to takeover the administration process. By moving forward this year, city costs could be higher if the county takes over to work on last minute plans, she added.

“There’s a great likelihood that its going to cause voter confusion and possibly disenfranchisement,” she said. “Trying to rush it now could be very problematic.”