Georgia’s AME Bishop Reginald Jackson agrees. “Today, it is clear that the Georgia Republican Party is scared. Since they no longer can win elections based on ideas, policy, leaderships or morals, their only pathetic course of action is to try to take legitimate votes away,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Fair Fight Action, the voting rights organization founded in 2018 by Stacey Abrams, submitted testimony to the State Election Board blasting the move. “It is not surprising that the Republican-controlled General Assembly has targeted Fulton County, Georgia’s largest county and home to the greatest number of voters of color in the state,” Fair Fight said. “This takeover process may be just the first step in the General Assembly’s anti-democratic attempts to impose partisan control of elections in certain jurisdictions.”
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office justified the impending coup by pointing to past election difficulties the county—the state’s largest—has experienced. “Fulton County has a long history of mismanagement, incompetence and a lack of transparency when it comes to running elections, including during the 2020 election,” Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said. “The State Election Board now has the ability to hold chronically underperforming counties accountable.”
The county does have a history of election problems, with long lines and slow counting. The 2020 primary election was particularly difficult, resulting in a consent order between the State Election Board and the county that included appointing an independent monitor for the general election. Carter Jones, that monitor, extensively observed the elections process in the county for the entire duration of the election—October through January—spending nearly 270 hours on the job. While there was sloppiness and managerial confusion, he said, there was no evidence of “any dishonesty, fraud or intentional malfeasance.”
The review panel includes a Democrat, Stephen Day, from the Gwinnett County election board, and a Republican, Rickey Kittle, chairman of the Catoosa County elections board, and Ryan Germany, general counsel for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said that the fact that the panel is “bipartisan” could help legitimize its conclusions. “The Democrats at least will be able to interject their concerns,” he said. They certainly could be outvoted 2-1, but at least they could have some influence.” Given how hellbent Republicans have been on taking over the elections process in this one county that has votes to elect Democrats, that’s wishful thinking.
Georgia’s new Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has been working on a voting rights compromise bill with Sen. Joe Manchin that would include some procedural safeguards to prevent local officials from being removed for partisan reasons, and give any ousted official access to federal courts to seek reinstatement.
As long as Manchin and his sidekick Sen. Kyrsten Sinema insist on blocking filibuster reform, though, that legislation won’t ever reach President Biden’s desk. That drastically reduces the possibility that Warnock will continue to be their colleague after next year’s election. Georgia Republicans are going to make sure of that, whatever lengths they have to go to.