Three weeks after it was signed into law, local election officials in Georgia are still trying to understand all the implications of the state’s controversial election overhaul.
In a series of interviews, election officials said that while the Republican-led measure has some good provisions, many felt sidelined as the legislation was being debated, and believe that parts of it will make Georgia elections more difficult and expensive.
One provision that particularly worries many officials is a new ability for the State Election Board to take over a county’s election management. The law empowers the state panel to take over if, in at least two elections within two years, the board finds “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections.”
Tonnie Adams, chief registrar of Heard County on the Alabama state line, said this provision, coupled with another change — which replaces the secretary of state as board chair with an appointee of the General Assembly — are problematic.
“The legislature now has three seats that they appoint on the State Election Board,” he said. “We thought that that was a gross overreach of power from one branch of government.”
Joseph Kirk, Bartow County’s elections supervisor, also took issue with the hypothetical scenario.
The legislature could effectively “replace a bipartisan board [of elections] with a single appointee that has complete control over that department,” Kirk said. “So a person could come in, and hire and fire and discipline as they see fit. And as I read this law, I’m really hoping they never need to go that route.”
Both Kirk and Adams highlighted that there was already a mechanism for the state to intervene in problematic elections administration in the Georgia state code, through the courts.