Calls grow for Gwinnett elections board chair to resign

Alice O'Lenick, the Republican chair of the Gwinnett County elections board, is resisting calls to resign. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com) AJC FILE PHOTO
Alice O'Lenick, the Republican chair of the Gwinnett County elections board, is resisting calls to resign. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com) AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Fifteen members of the Gwinnett County legislative delegation and 17 other groups have called on the chair of the county’s elections board to resign.

The moves come after Alice O’Lenick, a Republican appointee, was quoted in the Gwinnett Daily Post saying she was “like a dog with a bone” in her focus on changing some elections laws, including those regulating absentee by mail voting and ballot drop boxes.

“They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we at least have a shot at winning,” she said at a Republican party meeting.

At an elections board meeting Tuesday, O’Lenick said she swore an oath to uphold the laws “and that’s what I will do.”

Democratic members of the delegation said in the letter that her comments amounted to an intent to suppress votes in the county.

Rep. Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville and the delegation’s chair, said he found O’Lenick’s comments “just incredibly disheartening and very concerning.”

Park also said comments she made about the possibility that dead people or individuals outside of Georgia voted helped “perpetuate these incredibly dangerous lies of election fraud” that culminated in a violent mob storming the U.S. Capitol on the day Joseph R. Biden’s election victory was to be confirmed.

“I thought it was important to make a very public statement that this is unacceptable,” Park said of the letter asking O’Lenick to step down, which he made public on Twitter. “We now see where these lies lead, where these claims of election fraud lead.”

O’Lenick said she would not resign. She said she stands by her statement that “we need to tighten up elections laws,” saying that the voter rolls haven’t been updated in two years and more can be done to secure absentee ballots. But O’Lenick said she wants more people voting, not fewer.

“I’m actually trying to increase the amount of people able to vote,” she said. “We have to do it in a secure way that’s equitable for everyone.”

Still, O’Lenick said she didn’t know if she could trust ballot drop boxes that the state allowed counties to use so it was easier for people to vote. At the party meeting, she called them “ballot harvesting boxes.” And she said she didn’t know whether everyone who voted in Gwinnett should have been able to cast a ballot.

“It’s disturbing when all of a sudden we’re getting all these challenges,” she said of dismissed allegations questioning the validity of thousands of voters. “We haven’t investigated. We need to investigate. ... It makes me question whether we‘re doing things properly to have a just and fair and unquestionable election.”

O’Lenick voted against certifying the county’s elections results, claiming she “couldn’t say” if it was an accurate portrayal of the vote in Gwinnett County.

George Awuku, the other Republican member of the board, said he didn’t think O’Lenick’s comments were grounds for her to resign. The other three board members, two Democrats and one independent, declined requests to comment before the meeting.

Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, is not a member of the Gwinnett delegation. But Jordan said she had researched elections boards locally, and thought Gwinnett’s might be unconstitutional because the parties, not elected leaders, named the members. It was the same problem that doomed DeKalb’s ethics board, Jordan said.

“Really, what needs to happen is that that needs to be fixed and the board needs to be reconstituted,” she said “There’s a real issue there.”

In addition to members of the Gwinnett delegation, groups calling for O’Lenick’s ouster include Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, the Georgia AFL-CIO, Georgia Equality, Fair Fight Action, The Lincoln Project and Voto Latino. In a statement, they said O’Lenick made it clear that her motivation in the job was partisanship.

Park said O’Lenick’s concerns — about the security of drop boxes or absentee by mail votes — are “not grounded in reality, they’re not grounded in what actually happened.”

“Give me some concrete examples of where issues occurred rather than try to enact policy based on fear, based on lies,” he said. “It makes no sense. Follow the law rather than further bolster the claims of people who believe the election was stolen.”

In Other News