Gwinnett hires longtime assistant director to head elections office

Kristi Royston (right) was hired as Gwinnett County’s new election director. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Kristi Royston (right) was hired as Gwinnett County’s new election director. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

After a five-month search for a new elections director, Gwinnett County has hired Kristi Royston, a longtime assistant elections supervisor who has been heading the office on an interim basis since July.

Lynn Ledford served as the county's elections director for 32 years before she was promoted to the role of division director in April. The new role overseeing special projects — such as the implementation of new voting machines and procedures before the 2020 elections — was created for Ledford.

The elections director job was first listed in late March, and the county extended the hiring window in mid-April, after 42 applications were received. Royston was chosen after a "thorough, nationwide search," according to John Mangano, Board of Voter Registrations and Elections chairman. T

he board made the hiring decision after reviewing 95 applications and interviewing five candidates. Royston was one of three internal candidates that applied for the job.

The hiring process was criticized in April by some local Democrats and voting advocates because the elections board was not required to hold a public vote to solicit applications. Gwinnett's election processes have been the subject of criticism particularly after the 2018 governor's election, during which hours-long lines formed at two Snellville area precincts.

Incorrect voter cards caused a nearly five-hour delay at Annistown Elementary School and forgotten power cords caused significant delays at Anderson-Livsey Elementary School. Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams launched a national anti-voter suppression initiative from Annistown Elementary in August.

Gwinnett County also rejected a disproportionate number of absentee-by-mail ballots ahead of the November 2018 election, and was ultimately forced to count some that had initially been rejected after a series of lawsuits.

In Royston’s time as an assistant director, she oversaw the county’s compliance with the U.S. Department of Justice mandate to provide elections materials in both English and Spanish. She also helped with the county’s efforts to increase early voting at the county elections office and satellite locations. The elections office has asked the county to further expand satellite voting availability in 2020.

Royston will be paid a $110,000 salary. The starting salary advertised in April was $72,758, and Ledford was paid $123,688 as elections director before moving to her current position.

Before working in Gwinnett, Royston was Barrow County elections supervisor and worked in the Athens-Clarke County elections office. Royston also worked for the State Elections Division under Secretaries of State Lewis Massey and Cathy Cox.

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