Georgia's Fulton County approves plan for independent monitor team to oversee general election | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Georgia's Fulton County approves plan for independent monitor team to oversee general election

FILE - A voter leaves a polling site for the presidential primary election, March 12, 2024, in Atlanta. On Thursday, July 11, Georgia's most populous county — Fulton County — which has had a history of voting problems and was a focus of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, approved a plan for an independent monitor team to oversee this year's general election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's most populous county, which has had a history of voting problems and was a focus of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, has approved a plan for an independent monitor team to oversee this year's general election.

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections on Thursday considered two monitor proposals and voted to accept one and to reject the other. Board Chair Cathy Woolard said the selected proposal now goes to the State Election Board, which called for the monitor, for consideration.

This will be Fulton County's second consecutive presidential election conducted under the watch of an independent monitor. The heavily Democratic county is home to about 11% of the state’s electorate and includes most of the city of Atlanta. It has long been subject to national scrutiny because of its history of problems, including long lines and slow vote reporting. It is a favorite punching bag for Republicans, including Trump, who claimed without proof that that widespread voter fraud in Fulton County cost him the 2020 election in Georgia.

Also this week, it became public that Woolard plans to leave the board July 25, with just over three months left to go before the November election. She had previously chaired the board from September 2021 to May 2023 and was appointed chair again in April after the then-chair stepped down.

In a July 3 letter to county Board of Commissioners Chair Robb Pitts, Woolard said she took the role in an interim capacity to run the May primary and June primary runoff elections and that “it is time to let someone who can serve through the fall elections take the reins.”

The five-person Fulton County election board includes two members appointed by the county Democratic Party, two members appointed by the county Republican Party and a chair appointed by the county Board of Commissioners. The day-to-day operations of running elections are overseen by the county elections director, who reports to the board.

Closing out Thursday's Fulton election board meeting, Woolard told the staff they are “performing spectacularly.”

“Even though people want to tear down Fulton County for things that may or may not have happened in the past, we have moved on from that. Others may not have, but we have moved on from there and really great things have been happening,” Woolard said, expressing full confidence in elections director Nadine Williams, who was hired permanently in February 2023.

Woolard said she has been heartened during her brief return to the helm of the board to see the progress the county has made after years of challenges.

As part of an agreement with the State Election Board in 2020, an independent monitor examined the county's election processes during that year's general election. He documented “sloppy processes” and “systemic disorganization” but found no evidence of illegality or fraud.

The following year, the state board embarked a nearly two-year performance review of the county's election practices at the request of Republican state lawmakers. The review panel found that the county had shown considerable improvement, prompting the State Election Board to vote last year not to take over the county's elections.

To resolve a case against Fulton County involving allegations of double-scanning some ballots during an election recount in 2020, the state board voted in May to appoint a monitor to observe the county's elections and election processes in 2024. The choice of monitor has to be approved by the county, the State Election Board and the secretary of state's office.

The Fulton election board members briefly discussed two monitoring proposals at Thursday's meeting. The board voted 3-2, with Woolard joining the two Democratic appointees, to approve one proposal and to reject the other. The proposal they approved, which Woolard said already has the approval of the secretary of state, would cost the county $99,600.

It features a five-person monitoring team that includes: Lynn Bailey, former Richmond County elections director; Monica Childers, U.S. Election Assistance Commission elections expert; Ryan Germany, former general counsel for the Georgia secretary of state's office; Carter Jones, the independent monitor appointed to evaluate Fulton's elections in 2020; and Matt Mashburn, a former State Election Board member and former Republican poll watcher.

The stated mission of the monitoring team, according to the proposal, is to “ensure that Fulton County is following proper laws, regulations, and procedures in the administration of the 2024 election.” The proposal says the monitoring team would begin its work next month and would issue a report by the end of the year.

Republican-appointed board members Julie Adams and Michael Heekin voted against the proposal that ultimately was approved, arguing that the monitoring team was made up of people who had been involved in the 2020 election and had ties to the secretary of state's office. They argued that “fresh eyes” were needed.

Democratic appointee Aaron Johnson noted that Garland Favorito, who currently has a lawsuit pending against the county over access to ballots from 2020, was included in the monitoring team in the rejected proposal.

Fellow Democratic appointee Teresa Crawford called the that proposal “extremely invasive,” saying it sought access to materials, like hiring policies and the qualified voter list, that she said don't have much to do with how the county is running the election.

Johnson, Crawford and Woolard all expressed concern that it wasn't entirely clear who was behind the rejected proposal or what their qualifications are.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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