Forest Park consent order, new rules on agenda
by Robin Kemp
Georgia’s State Election Board is set to appoint a performance review panel that could give state officials the power to take over county elections offices Wednesday. In addition, Attorney General Chris Carr’s office is expected to present information about a consent decree involving elections in the City of Forest Park, and new elections rules will be considered for public comment.
The rules include:
183-1-12-.08 Logic and Accuracy
183-1-12-.11 Conducting Elections
183-1-12-.12 Tabulating Results
183-1-12-.13 Storage of Returns
183-1-12-.18 Provisional Ballots
183-1-14-.12 Eligibility of Application for Absentee Ballot
183-1-14-.14 Early Absentee Ballot Processing and Reporting
According to SEB, “Due to the high volume of cases, there will be no public comments section on this meeting’s agenda. However, you can submit all public comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 18, 2021. Complainants and respondents wishing to speak on their case may notify the board during the meeting by entering their name and case number in the Q&A box on the webinar.”
The review panel would include one elections official from the Secretary of State’s office and two outside local elections officials “if it determines that there is evidence which calls into question the competence of a local election official regarding the oversight and administration of elections, voter registration, or both, with state law and regulations.” The new law also mandates that the local government pick up “reasonable expenses” for the panel’s efforts, “including mileage, meals, lodging, and costs of materials.”
Fulton County, which has come under fire from the Trump wing of the Republican party, is targeted for the first performance review. Some Trump loyalists have falsely alleged voter fraud by pointing to video of “suitcases” in Fulton County that turned out to be cases specifically designed to carry absentee ballots.
The SEB’s lengthy agenda also includes a consent order in a case from Clayton County, SEB Case 2017-075, involving the City of Forest Park’s November 7 2017 election. The Clayton Crescent covered the February 24 hearing, which involved several alleged violations.
At that time, the SEB voted to send District 1 Councilwoman Kimberly James a letter of instruction regarding six absentee ballots applications James had submitted for other people but had not signed. James’ attorney, Bruce Maloy, told the board, “Two of those requests are for her own adult children, who are college students and legal voters and residents, but were away at college at the time.” Maloy added that his Open Records request for information about the investigation was denied, the state denied his request, claiming it was an open criminal investigation.
“I would just point out the inconsistency that when it’s to the benefit of the Secretary of State’s Office and the Election Board, this very same investigative report was provided as an not undersealed, not under confidentiality order exhibit in the Fair Fight vs. Raffensperger litigation,” Maloy told the board. “And so when the state wants to use it to its benefit, they do, and when an Open Records Act request is presented, it’s denied.”
A letter of instruction is issued for technical violations of state election law.
The board also voted to refer former elections supervisor Lois Wright, District 2 Councilman Dabouze Antoine, and the City of Forest Park to the state attorney general’s office. Antoine was alleged to have campaigned within 150 feet of the polling place on election day, while Wright and the city allegedly failed to redact voters’ birthdates on 587 absentee ballot applications that were part of an Open Records request.
Here is audio from that hearing:
Both Antoine and James qualified Tuesday for the November 7, 2021 municipal election. Wright is no longer elections supervisor but sits on all three of the city’s appointed development boards, serving as chair of the Development Authority.
Transparency note: See previous coverage of SEB Case 2019-042, a separate case this reporter filed over ballot measure literature being handed to voters inside the polling place that resulted in referrals to the state attorney general’s office for Wright and a poll worker.
The Clayton Crescent does not endorse candidates for office and does not take positions for or against any particular ballot measure.
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