Cathy Woolard sworn in as Fulton’s elections board chair

Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta City Council president, was sworn in Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 as chair of Fulton County’s board of registration and elections. (Ben Brasch/AJC)
Caption
Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta City Council president, was sworn in Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 as chair of Fulton County’s board of registration and elections. (Ben Brasch/AJC)

Credit: Ben Brasch

Credit: Ben Brasch

Cathy Woolard was sworn in Wednesday as chair of the Fulton County elections board while the county’s elections undergo unprecedented scrutiny.

Woolard, a former Atlanta City Council president and 2017 mayoral candidate, takes the role after previous occupant Alex Wan resigned in August to run for Atlanta City Council.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Shermela J. Williams swore in Woolard, making her attest to prevent fraud and always be fair.

Always important promises, they are even more poignant after the last 18 months of county elections.

ExploreFulton elections takeover would make history

Following a pattern of elections issues, a bipartisan panel appointed by the State Election Board is investigating Fulton elections, which could lead to a state takeover. That is a new power given by Senate Bill 202, a bill passed by Georgia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly soon after the 2020 election cycle ended.

Woolard herself hasn’t escaped controversy either.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger condemned her as a “blatantly political appointment” because she was a former lobbyist for the voting rights organization Fair Fight Action. The voting rights group, which has sued the state, was formed by likely gubernatorial candidate Democrat Stacey Abrams.

When asked Wednesday to respond to Raffensperger, Woolard said: “To know me is to love me, and he doesn’t know me.”

Woolard finished third in the 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race — just 4,000 votes behind Mary Norwood, who eventually lost to Keisha Lance Bottoms in a runoff.

Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta City Council president, was sworn in Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 as chair of Fulton County’s board of registration and elections. (Ben Brasch/AJC)
Caption
Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta City Council president, was sworn in Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 as chair of Fulton County’s board of registration and elections. (Ben Brasch/AJC)

Credit: Ben Brasch

Credit: Ben Brasch

Woolard is now the potentially tie-breaking vote on the five-member elections board, which also includes two Democratic and two Republican appointees. Elections board chairs manage the direction of the board, help decide local polling places, create policies and oversee the election director’s responsibilities of running day-to-day operations.

Fulton Commission Chair Robb Pitts nominated Woolard, saying the county needs their best to stand up to what he views as a partisan attempt to take over the county’s elections.

“She’s even-handed, she’s fair and she knows how to do what’s right,” he said.

ExploreFulton responds to possible elections takeover by Georgia Republicans

Woolard in 1997 became the first openly gay Atlanta City Council member. The then 40-year-old Woolard ousted an incumbent of 20 years for the District 6 seat.

She made history again in 2002 as the first woman to serve as president of the Atlanta City Council. She gave up the seat in 2004 and became the first openly gay candidate to run for Congress in Georgia, resulting in a Democratic primary loss to Cynthia McKinney for the 4th Congressional District.

Former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard, center, stands between Fulton County Chair Robb Pitts, right, and Fulton elections head Richard Barron, left, at her swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 as new chair of Fulton County’s board of registration and elections. (Ben Brasch/AJC)
Caption
Former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard, center, stands between Fulton County Chair Robb Pitts, right, and Fulton elections head Richard Barron, left, at her swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 as new chair of Fulton County’s board of registration and elections. (Ben Brasch/AJC)

Credit: Ben Brasch

Credit: Ben Brasch

Woolard takes the high-profile position as the eyes of the state, and maybe the nation, could again be upon Fulton County elections.

The elections department, according to the county’s own internal audit, has several fixes to make under the leadership of Richard Barron.

When asked how she would respond to non-Democrats who feel she’s too partisan, Woolard said: “The rules are important to me.”

Caption
Scathing survey details issues in Fulton elections

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