Gwinnett elections director is stepping down

Gwinnett County elections director Kristi Royston is stepping down.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com) AJC FILE PHOTO
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Gwinnett County elections director Kristi Royston is stepping down. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com) AJC FILE PHOTO

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

Gwinnett County elections director Kristi Royston is resigning her position.

Royston, who has been in the role since Sept. 2019, said in a resignation letter that she would be going to work for a commercial printer that prints ballots. She’ll be the Albany, N.Y. company’s customer satisfaction representative in Georgia.

Royston’s last day will be March 17.

“Those who sat on the Board when I was promoted are aware that I really didn’t want the job of Elections Supervisor,” Royston said in her resignation letter, referring to the county elections board. “I went into the position because I felt that staff needed someone they trusted to work with them through 2020.”

Royston had been with the county since 2010.

Her exit comes as Fulton County elections director Richard Barron hangs on to his job. There, the county elections board voted to oust him, but county commissioners declined to do so.

Stephen Day, a Democratic appointee to the elections board, said that group is tasked with finding the next elections director.

Alice O’Lenick, the chair of Gwinnett’s elections board, said that group will meet in executive session next week to discuss the process. She thinks an interim elections supervisor will be appointed, and the county will aid the board in hiring a replacement.

“I’m very said to see she’s leaving,” O’Lenick said. “She has a lot of knowledge and experience and will be missed.”

O’Lenick, a Republican who has come under fire for comments she made about changing elections laws to make it easier for Republicans to win, said she doesn’t think the contentious election cycle had any bearing on Royston’s decision — or would affect the county’s ability to find her replacement.

“Any time you have to hire someone with that much responsibility, I think it’s a challenge,” O’Lenick said.

Royston did not respond to emailed requests for comment. A spokesperson for the county said she was in meetings all day on Friday. She said in her letter that she will “be supporting fair and secure elections” through her work with Fort Orange Press.

Wandy Taylor, a Democratic member of Gwinnett’s elections board, said Royston “had ups and downs — some obviously as a result not of her own making.” She hoped whoever was hired next was able to help the county achieve better equity in its elections.

The newest member of the elections board, Santiago Marquez, will help with that aim. Day said Marquez, who is the CEO of the Latin American Association, was chosen in part to give more representation to Hispanic residents.

Gwinnett is required to have elections materials in Spanish because of the number of Hispanic residents in the county who have limited English skills. The county is also considering translating some voting information into Asian languages, like Korean and Vietnamese.

Additionally, the county’s legislative delegation is considering remaking the board. Following O’Lenick’s comments, there were questions about whether the board — which is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, appointed by their parties, and one independent, appointed by the other four members — is constitutional.

The current proposal being considered would require the parties to put forward a slate of candidates, and county commissioners would choose two from that list. County commissioners would name the fifth member themselves, if the proposed legislation is approved.

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