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Fulton legislators try to appoint Mary Norwood to election board

Republican members of Fulton County’s legislative delegation tried unsuccessfully Thursday to appoint Mary Norwood, the twice-failed Atlanta mayoral candidate, as chair of the county elections board.

After the Senate delegation voted in the morning to put Norwood’s name forward, the House delegation canceled its meeting. Both bodies must approve the nomination and it is supposed to happen in a joint session of the delegation.

Frustrated Democrats said the proper process wasn’t followed.

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People on both sides have been vocal as officials look at the final numbers.

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Norwood served on the board as an independent, appointed by Republicans, for several months in 2013. She said Thursday she would like to be on the board, but had not asked for the appointment.

“This isn’t something I instigated or sought after,” she said.

Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, said current board chair Mary Carole Cooney has been serving in the role but her term is expired. She was first appointed in 2013, and has not been reappointed, though her term ran out later that same year.

House Republicans earlier this year tried to fill the position, but needed to have a full delegation meeting in order to vote for a replacement. That didn’t happen during the regular session, so Martin said he wanted to try again when legislators are in a special session this week.

“If we have a consensus, let’s check this box while we’re down here,” he said.

There was no consensus Thursday.

Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, said the notice of the delegation meeting hadn’t come with an agenda, and she and other members didn’t know ahead of time what the meeting was for. Democrats didn’t attend, she said, in an effort to deny a quorum. But, she said, enough Republicans showed up to hold a vote.

Jordan said she had no opinion on Norwood’s qualifications, but said she thought the effort was an attempt to push through a new board chair while Republicans still hold control of the Fulton delegation. Both the House and the Senate flipped in the election.

“Clearly, this was being done to try to get around the rules,” she said. “We weren’t even given an agenda. We weren’t told what the meeting was about.”

Norwood said she was “not privy” to what was going on behind the scenes.

The county’s election board has come under fire in recent weeks, as the governor’s race has yet to be settled. Richard Barron, the Fulton director of registration and elections, said Cooney works “tirelessly” and has his support. Cooney did not respond to an emailed request for comment about whether she was still interested in holding the position.

“This is an important thing,” Jordan said. “This is the chairperson of the Fulton County Board of Elections. I think we know sitting here today how important this role is.”

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