Under pressure, Gwinnett extends search for new elections supervisor

In this April 2018 file photo, Gwinnett elections director Lynn Ledford shows off a voting machine’s Spanish-language ballot. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM

In this April 2018 file photo, Gwinnett elections director Lynn Ledford shows off a voting machine’s Spanish-language ballot. TYLER ESTEP / TYLER.ESTEP@AJC.COM

Applications will be accepted for two additional weeks in Gwinnett's search for its next elections supervisor — a hunt that's become high-profile in light of the county's rapidly changing politics and recent allegations of voter suppression.

Some voting advocates and local Democrats had raised questions about the search process, which started three weeks ago following the county Board of Registrations and Elections being notified that longtime elections supervisor Lynn Ledford would be promoted to a new position.

The job posting soliciting applications for Ledford’s replacement did not require a public vote by the board, which has authority to hire and fire the elections supervisor. The search flew largely under the radar until last week.

It had been scheduled to end at midnight Tuesday.

“I think the importance of this position is of such paramount importance that an extra few weeks is not going to matter when it comes to the county doing its business properly,” elections board member Stephen Day said.

He said additional time would also present “a lot of upside in terms of goodwill.”

After some debate, the five-member board voted unanimously to extend the application period.

Board chairman John Mangano said 42 applications had already been received, and that the review process would start even with the extended application period.

Gwinnett became the epicenter of Georgia's larger voting rights debate during November's contentious election season, thanks to the county's rapidly changing politics and media reports that elections officials had rejected a disproportionate number of absentee by-mail ballots.

Gwinnett officials argued that they accepted or rejected ballots under their long-standing interpretation of the state's elections laws and that nothing nefarious was afoot. After a series of lawsuits forced Gwinnett and other jurisdictions to count some previously rejected absentee ballots,Gwinnett officials asked the legislature to provide clearer guidance in the future.

Ledford, who had been elections supervisor since 2002, became a bit of a lightning rod for voting rights advocates in the November election’s aftermath. Her promotion and the quiet start to the search for her replacement rankled some of the same advocates.

“There were a lot of people in the community who did not know about this position,” Penny Poole, president of the Gwinnett NAACP, said Tuesday.

“I have a concern that there was not a press release for something of this magnitude,” said state Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn. “ ... When you post on a job posting site, what you’re going to get is people who are actively searching. And that doesn’t mean that there’s not somebody that’s not actively searching on Indeed.com that wouldn’t be interested.”

Ledford, meanwhile, said she was happy to be moving into her new role, which is aimed at allowing her to work on bigger picture projects. Those include helping with technological and procedural changes mandated by the legislature ahead of the 2020 election.

“I’m going to be able to work on these special projects that I’ve never been able to do before,” an emotional Ledford said. “I hope to be able to work with both sides of the aisle to ... make a better experience.”

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