Gwinnett Commissioner Kirkland Carden said he has concerns that commissioners would still be forced to choose candidates nominated by the political parties. Such groups don’t have public meetings, he said, and are naturally motivated by politics.
He proposed having a board made up of election experts.
“I’m a no vote on it,” Carden said. “Being a Republican or a Democrat is not a qualification to me.”
Park acknowledged that there were still some concerns that might need to be worked out. But he said he intends to ensure both political parties have a seat at the table.
“The original intent was to eliminate political parties from the system, but I don’t think that’s realistic,” Park said. “Do I think this will be smooth sailing? Absolutely not. There will be hurdles along the way.”
The legislation can move forward even if county commissioners do not support it. Additionally, it has to get through a legislature that has focused this session on voting issues.
Commissioner Ben Ku said he’s concerned that county leaders still wouldn’t have much choice in who joins the board.
“I don’t want to replace a bad system with another bad system,” he said. “I’m not saying it is, but it could be.”
Edward Muldrow, chair of the Gwinnett Republican party, expressed support for the proposal. He was suspicious that nonpolitical, professional appointees could be found.
“I’m not sure we can take the politics out of the elections board,” he said.
The proposal comes after the current elections board chair, Republican Alice O’Lenick, 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.
O’Lenick did not return a phone call seeking comment on the new proposal.