Voting groups pledge to oppose takeover of Fulton elections

Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, speaks during a press conference Monday opposing the possible takeover of the Fulton County elections board. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, speaks during a press conference Monday opposing the possible takeover of the Fulton County elections board. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Voting rights groups called an inquiry of Fulton County’s elections a “hostile takeover” that threatens democracy, saying Monday that they will fight attempts by Georgia’s government to replace the county’s elections board.

The groups united near the Capitol after the State Election Board last week appointed a performance review panel to investigate problems in Fulton, the state’s most populous county and one that backed Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump with 73% of the vote.

Fulton’s elections were fraught with problems last year, such as long lines, undelivered absentee ballots and conspiracy theories, but voting organizations say the county is being scapegoated by Georgia’s Republican majority.

“We’re taking action to make sure that democracy is protected and that our right to vote is protected,” said Helen Butler, executive director for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a civil rights organization. “We do not intend for our local boards of elections to be taken over in this process.”

ExploreComplete coverage of Georgia voting law

The organizations criticized the appointment of three white men — two Republicans and a Democrat — to investigate problems in a county that’s 62% nonwhite.

Brian Robinson, a Republican consultant, said voting rights groups should welcome an opportunity to fix Fulton’s problems with long waits to vote and undelivered absentee ballots.

“All of the things that Democrats cite as voter suppression, the worst offender is Fulton County. So why in the heck do they have the problem with fixing the issues that they call voter suppression?” Robinson said. “We all benefit if the lines are shorter and if the appropriate number of voting machines are in precincts to meet the demand.”

Members of the voting rights organizations said they plan to take legal action and raise money to oppose a potential takeover of Fulton’s elections board. They included the New Georgia Project, Fair Fight Action, the NAACP and Common Cause Georgia.

The takeover process was created by Georgia’s new voting law, passed in the spring by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. After the performance review is completed, the State Election Board has the power to install a temporary superintendent with authority over vote counting, polling places and staffing.

ExploreHow Georgia’s voting law works

“They made it harder for counties to do this job, and rather than finding ways to offer them additional resources, they are now intimidating them, threatening to take it over,” said Hillary Holley, organizing director for Fair Fight Action.

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