Commissioners in Georgia’s largest county on Wednesday were in deadlock over a vote to remove its elections director.
The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections voted on Tuesday to remove Director Richard Barron. The board subsequently sent its recommendation to remove Barron to the Board of Commissioners.
The seven-person board was in a 3-3 deadlock, with Commissioner Natalie Hall abstaining, on whether to accept the recommendation.
Commission Chair Robb Pitts told WSB-TV, “We need to get an opinion from the county attorney as to whether it’s properly before us or not, but the bottom line though right now is Mr. Barron is still the director.”
Every other county in the state relies on its elections board to make decisions on officials, but Fulton County requires the commissioners to approve recommendations from the board.
Election board members who voted to remove Barron cited the slew of errors and improper procedures that popped up during elections in recent years.
“There were no chain of custody forms being used as ballots moved from room to room, mass optional policy putting essential staff at unnecessary risk, no process to sufficiently protect spoiled and rejected ballots in the mail room, using an outdated version of easy vote to check in voters, poor record keeping for election net, persistent chain of custody issues, ballots that were being delivered to State Farm Arena in unsecured mail carts, which the monitor noted was very concerning, technology issues abounding during the recount, the server crashing on Nov. 29,” said Dr. Kathleen Ruth, a Republican member, recounting issues that a monitor uncovered in a review of the most recent elections.
Others defended Barron, including Aaron Johnson, a Democrat member.
Name tags sit at the entrance of the sorting room where election workers process absentee ballots, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Ga., on Nov. 2, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)
“Resoundingly it was, yes, things were bad, but we need to give him… he made up for it… and give him an option to stay, or at least give the next board the option of making this decision that we’re putting on down,” Johnson said.
Commissioners on Wednesday questioned whether the elections board should be deciding on who directs elections.
“Because it did not go their way, all of a sudden we’re on a slippery slope. Well, that’s why we have the county attorney for,” Fulton County Commissioner Khadija Abdur-Rahman said, WSB-TV reported.
Abdur-Rahman, Pitts, and Marvin Arrington Jr., all Democrats, voted to keep Barron. Liz Hausmann, Bob Ellis, and Lee Morris, all Republicans, voted to approve the elections board recommendation.
“They’ve stated publicly various reasons why they think change is necessary,” Ellis said during the meeting before the vote. “Things have emanated out of a consent decree that the county is under, the monitoring report that’s come back from the monitors about the performance, things they’ve observed, they talk about health and safety issues, chain of control, custody issues.”
Hall, a Democrat, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The board is expected to take up the matter again at their next meeting on March 3.