The Fulton County elections board is set to hold its first regular meeting Thursday since Cathy Woolard was sworn in as chair.
The former Atlanta City Council president and 2017 mayoral candidate took her oath about two weeks ago. Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts nominated her after the previous chair, Alex Wan, resigned in August to run for Atlanta City Council.
Woolard is now the potentially tie-breaking vote on the five-member elections board — which in addition to Woolard 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.
Woolard takes over as a bipartisan panel appointed by the State Election Board investigates Fulton elections — a move that could end with the state temporarily taking over county elections management. 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.
And Woolard herself has also been subject to state scrutiny.
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, formed by likely gubernatorial candidate Democrat Stacey Abram, has sued the state over elections issues.
When asked to respond to Raffensperger the Republican, Woolard said at her swearing-in: “To know me is to love me, and he doesn’t know me.”
“Obviously the State Election Board already has Fulton County under review, and I know they’ll consider this as a very serious infraction, because it is,” Raffensperger said. “Everyone in Georgia is sick and tired of Fulton County’s lack of management control. This has been going on since 1993, and enough is enough.”
Pitts responded with a defense of a state Republican target, Fulton elections head Richard Barron: “Mr. Barron’s decision to inform the Secretary of State’s office, as well as my decision to inform the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, about these allegations regarding two now-terminated employees was proactive and transparent. Any attempt to portray it otherwise is more spin from desperate politicians seeking to malign Fulton County for political gain.”
Woolard comes to the position with elections experience: In 1997 she became the first openly gay Atlanta City Council member. She made history again in 2002 as the first woman to serve as city council president.
The agenda for Thursday’s 10 a.m. elections board meeting had not been was posted in its regular spot online less than 24 hours before the event was scheduled to begin and includes an introduction of Woolard. A county news release said the proceedings will be streamed on the county’s YouTube page, http://bit.ly/WatchFGTV.
Ben Brasch is the reporter tasked with keeping Fulton County government accountable. The Florida native moved to Atlanta for a job with The AJC. If there's something important to you going on in Fulton, he wants to know about it. Help him better metro Atlanta by dropping a line, anonymously or otherwise.