Georgia Republicans take first step to Fulton elections takeover

Caption
Fulton County elections workers open and sort ballots at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021. (AJC file photo)

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Georgia Republicans have taken the first step on their freshly blazed path toward a possible takeover of Fulton County’s elections.

A letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows two dozen state senators support a performance review of Fulton elections chief Richard Barron. The letter was written Tuesday, the very same day a front-page AJC story examined the prospect of a takeover of elections in Fulton, home to a tenth of all Georgians.

“We’re asking them to simply correct a record they say is easily corrected. Is it or isn’t it? The people of Georgia deserve answers,” wrote Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who signed the letter.

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As written into Senate Bill 202, the State Election Board can replace a county’s election board following a performance review/audit/investigation. Then, a temporary superintendent would enjoy full managerial authority of how the county counts votes and staffs polling places.

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ExploreTakeover of Fulton elections considered by Georgia Republicans

Barron was not available for comment due to a scheduling conflict, according to a county spokesman.

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A performance review begins upon request of at least two state representatives and two state senators from the county.

With more than enough senators, the letter addresses the representatives needed: “We have every reason to believe that the requisite number of Fulton’s House delegation will respond likewise, thereby triggering the performance review.”

Two representatives confirmed to the AJC on Wednesday that they would join the effort.

“I support and will be calling for a performance review of the Fulton County Elections Board Director because of repeated and systemic elections process failures,” House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones, a Milton Republican, wrote in an email. “This includes an investigation and evaluation of his technical competency and compliance with state law and regulation.”

From Rep. Chuck Martin, a Republican representing the Alpharetta area: “I want to see and will be requesting a full process review of the Fulton County Elections Operations because all the people of Fulton County and the State of Georgia deserve answers ... Let’s work together, get this review moving and get to the truth; the people deserve the truth.”

ExploreFulton responds to possible elections takeover by Georgia Republicans

Rep. David Dreyer, an Atlanta Democrat and head of the Fulton House delegation, said elections are massive logistical undertakings.

“If I were to audit Chick-fil-A and Home Depot … I’d find things that aren’t done perfectly,” he said.

Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said a takeover is really a GOP attempt to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats and retain the governorship in 2022, with eyes toward 2024.

“It’s been rhetoric until this point. This letter is the first official step in the process,” he said.

Pitts said he intends to form a plan with his staff, including the county attorney, Thursday.

“We’ve got allies in the legislature, we’ve got the courts and the court of public opinion,” he said. " ... The law, as it currently stands, it on their side.”

When asked if he thinks Fulton will win, he said: “We’ll fight to the end, no matter what the outcome will be.”


Story so far

Fulton County delivered key wins for the Democratic party during the 2020 election cycle, but they also were embarrassed by a disastrous June primary. Though this is nothing new for a county with a history of poor performance in elections, multiple recounts have reaffirmed the results despite unfounded conspiracy theories about Fulton’s elections management swirling online.

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