BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, CHATHAM COUNTY: JANUARY 11TH, 2016 MEETING

In attendance:

Thomas J. Mahoney III (Chairman)
Marianne Heimes (Member, R)
Malinda Hodge (Member, D)
Debbie Rauers (Member, R)

Russell Bridges (Elections Supervisor)

Chairman Mahoney: this year is a bit daunting. We’ve got our plates full, that’s for sure.

  • Sheriff’s special election plus presidential preference primary plus potential March runoff.

Vice Chair position

Member Ernestine Jones (Vice Chair, D) isn’t here today. But she called and said she intends to continue serving in her post. She will be at the meeting next month. The item remains on our agenda to select a vice chair for 2016.

  • Member Heimes asks: was [Member Jones] suggesting we wait until next month to elect a Vice Chair?
  • Chairman Mahoney: yes. But she’s had these health problems and we’re all concerned about that. But, in her words, she’s not going anywhere.
  • Member Heimes moves that they postpone the election. Unanimous.

Treasurer’s report presented by Elections Supervisor Bridges

  • We’re paying all the invoices from last year’s election.
  • $8,600 to Lee Wright (the transportation contractor)
  • Monday night pickup
  • Other items too
  • Repair materials
  • Member Rauers asks: how much do we spend on an election?
    • Elections Supervisor Bridges responds: about $185,000
    • The municipal election cost at least that.

Upcoming election: presidential preference primary (“PPP”) presented by Elections Supervisor Bridges

  • Composite ballots passed around
  • Bloomberg (?) missed Georgia’s qualifying deadline
  • We’re holding a special election for the sheriff. We have five candidates. Because we have 5 candidates, we’ll likely have a runoff on March 29th.
    • Standard interval between general and runoff = 28 days
  • There are no write-ins this year.
  • The ballots are done.  We anticipate printing our first ballots this week. Deadline is Friday (this weekend) for beginning to send ballots. So, we’re ahead of the deadline.

Concern over current voting locations, presented by Member Rauers

Member Rauers:

  • There needs to be a review of some of our voting locations. A couple of locations are “highly inappropriate.” At one location, citizens were voting in a classroom where a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) class was actively meeting. At another location, citizens were voting in a cafeteria full of after-school kids. At Jenkins, there was a basketball game or practice in the location. At the Golden H center, there was voting in the hallway. The line to pick up kids was 100 cars long. You couldn’t get down the road to get to it. At this point, we need to revisit some of this.
  • A board member suggests: JCs might allow us to use those locations for voting.
  • Full list of concerning locations: Senior Citizens (Center?), Bartlett Jr. high, Largo-Tibet Elementary, Windsor Forest Golden Age Center, Jenkins High School
  • Member Rauers: there also may be others we need to reevaluate.
  • Chairman Mahoney: what’s the most appropriate way to approach this?
  • Elections Supervisor Bridges: when we’re asked to move, we go out and scout locations.
  • Chairman Mahoney: can you go scout locations before the next meeting?
  • Elections Supervisor Bridges: yes but there won’t be time to make a change before the next election.
    • In the past, we had to file everything with the Department of Justice sixty days before elections. No longer have to do that.
  • Member Rauers: these places are not appropriate. I cannot stress that enough.
  • Elections Supervisor Bridges: I’m not opposed to anything that’s a viable suggestion but let’s recognize the limited amount of time available here. We would not be able to bring this to a vote in the next meeting and put it in place in time.
  • Member Heimes: this will be a lighter election than last time. I don’t think we can expect this to happen in such a short amount of time. Which is the worst location?
    • Member Rauers: they’re all bad
    • Elections Supervisor Bridges: I can go back to those locations and tell them I got feedback that the locations were not acceptable.
    • Member Rauers: is it possible to consolidate polls? There’s a large polling location across the street from Bartlett Jr. High. Between the two locations [Bartlett and the across-the-street location], there are about 3200 folks [assigned to those locations].
    • Member Hodge: I cant imagine that these locations don’t have appropriate space somewhere in their buildings.
    • Member Rauers moves that we get these polls squared away. Board asks for more clarity in the motion.
    • Member Rauers asks that those locations she listed–that those voting locations are improved or relocated by June. Seconded by Member Heimes.

Member Hodge: can we pay someone to come in and evaluate our efficiency? Not necessarily to implicate any of our positions. Just to come in and provide recommendations.

Member Heimes: I think it would benefit all of us to get an idea of what the Board of Registrar’s is doing, too. Could benefit all of us for us to know what the other is doing.

Budget is back on the February agenda.

Audit discussion, specifically Varos (?) checks and petty cash

Re: the checks. Used to all be hand-done. With as many checks as we handle, there was a chance for mistake.

  • Member Rauers: would like to entertain the idea that we’ll have another audit (“even if I seem to be the only one pushing it”)
    • If it takes us this long to fix issues, we need to make sure we’re aggressively involved in audit situations.
    • There are too many Chatham County offices that have been horrendously out of whack monetarily.
      • Provides e.g. “Ooh, that’s why he got that coroner’s job, is because Mr. Metts was “dipping”
      • For more on that: http://savannahnow.com/news/2014-05-09/former-chatham-coroner-cleared-da-criminal-use-funds
    • I had to make a determined commitment last year to get an audit and that was the first one we’d had in fourteen years.
  • Member Heimes: this article [see, e.g. http://savannahnow.com/news/2015-12-23/review-chathams-petty-cash-accounts-prompts-call-improvement%5D dredged up all the things wrong in the original audit (years ago). Member Heimes wants to see a copy of the letter the Chairman wrote in the beginning. Sometimes the news loves to dredge it up. The news will go back without checking to see if anything had been done about it.
  • Member Rauers: we had not done anything about it. At this point, it’s still an open issue. Until we resolve it and put it in the record, it’s still an open issue.
  • Elections Supervisor Bridges: we made changes in petty cash and in Varos (?) checks. It was a very arduous task. We took it seriously. We started during the audit itself, looking for solutions.
  • Member Rauers: this is a great step in the right direction. I do believe we need to have it approved as soon as possible and have a policy about how frequently we’re going to have an audit.

EasyVote

  • Member Rauers sent an email that made certain proposals about EasyVote.
  • Any staff recommendations, asks Chairman Mahoney of Elections Supervisor Bridges?
    • Elections Supervisor Bridges: no real recommendations yet but I’ve looked at the system some and will continue doing that..
    • It’s a pretty complex system. There’s gonna be a serious learning curve on the system when we implement it. There’s no real great window in 2016 to buy and install the new system.

Poll watcher residency (are poll watchers required to be GA residents?)

  • Chairman Mahoney: we probably need to go to the county attorney and get an opinion on that. There are code requirements. I’m not sure we can add to those.
  • Member Rauers: Requirements say they should be judicious, intelligent and upright. What does that mean? We should ask the attorney if we can ask for a driver’s license from the poll workers. That way, we have some validation of who they are.
    • Member Heimes: I’m all for seeing that our poll watchers are above reproach. But as Linda said, with the federal elections, we’re going to get out-of-state poll watchers because we have out-of-state presidential candidates.
    • Member Rauers: even so, would it be appropriate to ask out-of-state people for their driver’s licenses? Some form of picture ID?
    • Chairman Mahoney: that seems to be a different question than the original question. Asking whether we can ask for photo ID versus asking them to be Georgia resident.
    • Member Rauers: to me, a minimum requirement should be asking for a driver’s license. Even if you don’t ask for a background check–this isn’t the world your mama and daddy grew up in.
    • Chairman Mahoney: the idea was to approach the local delegation about legislative considerations.
    • Member Rauers: we may or we may not. Legislative considerations often come back in a form very different than what we requested.
    • Member Rauers: moves that we ask poll watchers for a state-approved picture ID during the process of being credentialed or when walking into the poll and talking to the poll manager.

Legislative changes and candidate qualifications

  • Member Rauers: At this point in our history in the state of Georgia, all candidates have to do is sign an affidavit that says they’re not a felon
  • There is no background check done by the county or by the state to say to the voters: this person is not a felon.
  • We recently had a situation with Mr. Hogan who was a felon who hadn’t gotten his rights back. Also, Baker was a candidate who didn’t get elected but went to the federal penitentiary.
  • If nothing elese, I want to start considering a box on candidate applications that says: check a box to allow us to conduct a background check. And then, if the candidate says “no,” the press can take that and run with it.
  • Member Heimes: if there’s a problem, usually the other candidates will go after the guilty party. If we were to ask our legislative body to do this, would it be only our legislators that would vote on it? If it goes to the whole body, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell it would pass.
  • This issue is put off until the next meeting.

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