BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, FULTON COUNTY: FEBRUARY 11TH, 2016 MEETING

 

In attendance:

Mr. Stan Matarazzo (Vice Chair, R)

Mr. David J. Burge  (R)

Ms. Rukiya S. Thomas (D)

Mr. Luther W. Beck (D)

…..

Dwight Brower (Elections Chief)

Ralph Jones (Registration Manager)

Webb (City of Atlanta)

Communications and Public Response

Langford (citizen): Retired sheriff of Fulton County. Was a candidate in 2012 and is a candidate in 2016. There were a lot of irregularities/problems with his candidacy in 2012 that the board couldn’t explain, such as whether his name was even on the ballot, or whether, if a voter selected his name, the machine even worked to submit it. Voters had difficulties and machines weren’t changed out or fixed. 

As candidates, we want to know that there is a fair process going on so that, functionally, every candidate has the same chance at being elected. Langford also feels that the accumulation system could also be manipulated. 

Vice Chair Matarazzo: [Registration and Elections Director] Richard Barron wasn’t in charge of the department in 2012. The changes and improvements that were made in accuracy and crosschecking have been superlative and the Secretary of State is happy with the progress. Director Barron has run a number of elections for about 3 years, all without major issue.

Patty Sheriff (citizen)- Inquired about the board being fined $180,000 for misdirecting voters in the 2012 election. 

Vice Chair Matarazzo: there were a number of issues involved in that penalty

Sheriff: A large number of voters have been expunged from the rolls. If you haven’t voted in seven years, you could be taken off the rolls this year. In 2012 there was a big problem. The board of elections was fined because a lot of people weren’t able to vote in 2012. So it adds insult to injury to use that [not having voted in seven years] as criteria this year to expunge people [when they were unfairly prevented from voting by the board of elections in 2012].

Vice Chair Matarazzo:  we have an item on the agenda on that process, which is statutory and its being currently handled. It allows the board of elections to use the criteria of two general elections without activity before purging a voter (i.e. 8 years or more).  The issues in 2012 were more about the provision of provisional ballots and how many were used. The voter lists were not clear at the end of the election, but it doesn’t mean the provisional ballots weren’t counted.

Sheriff: You ran out of provisional ballots?

Vice Chair Matarazzo: We added more. The process was completed and the votes were counted. 

Sheriff: The fine imposed–how is it paid? Who gets the money; where does it come from, and how is it used?

Vice Chair Matarazzo: Comes from the county budget and goes to the Secretary of State. We aren’t sure how it is used.

Sheriff: Does it just make your budget thinner?

Vice Chair Matarazzo: It was accounted for in the overall budget. 

Webb (City of Atlanta): Last meeting, Director Barron recommended a new formula to allow municipalities to help pay for their own elections. Has the board approved or considered the recommendations? When will the municipalities be notified of the changes? I would like to note that the staff should be financially compensated. They should increase the salaries of staff. The state sends down a lot of unfunded mandates, and those are things you can compensate your staff for on a regular basis. If you want to make changes, there should be some way to be compensating the staff.

Vice Chair Matarazzo: All of the municipalities have agreed to contribute their share based on their number of registered voters of their upcoming elections. As these municipalities are having their elections, we are going to have them pay. They’ll pay a share of the election cost of the election budget–not operational.

Member Thomas- I’d like to understand the changes and see what the mean for each municipality. Is the city of Atlanta notified of details?

Webb: yes, we were notified. We have a ten-year governmental agreement we entered into with the board. We need to review the agreement; we can void it at any time. We entered it to expedite the election process and the cost of paying for the election. Our normal election costs are somewhere in the neighborhood of two million dollars. We have to be able to justify that to the mayor and the city council and the departments; we have to get an understanding and be able to speak to the cost. 

Vice Chair Matarazzo: I’m confused about what we’re going to pay for the current year. The invoice was submitted to the City of Atlanta yesterday. 

The way things have been in the past, if Fulton County runs an election, the municipality can choose to also run races in that election. Up until 2014 the municipality paid nothing to be added into that election. Now we are having them pay a share based on the number of registered voters they have, so they can split the cost with the county in the jurisdiction. Otherwise, municipalities or school districts can have elections only when the county is holding its own election, rather than also on special elections.

It’s a burden for the host entity [Fulton County, etc.] to add municipal or school district elections to their own ballots, if there’s no financial contribution on the parts of the municipalities or school districts. For the march 1st election, if these new changes went into place, the city would be liable for 22.9% of the election cost. Before, there was no charge. For the May election, one school district is going to be liable for 26% of the overall cost, another district for 22%, and Fulton County is paying 22%.

Webb: in non-election years, the city always paid something.

Board asks if there is any reason why the city would choose to run their own election.

Webb: I can’t speak to that. 

Voters Purged due to Felony Convictions

401 voters removed.

Voter Registration Applications, January

We processed 6,252 voter registration applications in January, which is less than half of what we processed in January of 2012. That seemed unusual. It was less than 2015 as well. Seems to indicate a low turnout for early voting. We have an election next Tuesday: the runoff for House District 58. We have the House District 58 early voting running concurrently with the presidential primary early voting at two locations: Georgia Hills rec. center and the government center.

Citizenship Update, presented by Registration Manager Jones

We have 75 voters on the rolls that don’t have the proper citizenship documentation. We have to hold a hearing for the 75. Upon the board’s recommendation, we will meet. 

Update By County Attorney Lawman

He came to speak about the suspension of the practice of removing voters from the voter rolls. The Secretary of State is supposed to review the voter list and discern regularly which voters are active and inactive. Occasionally, the Secretary of State will attempt to figure out if they’ve had contact with a particular voter in three calendar years, and if they haven’t, they send out a change of address request to the voter. If that change of address form isn’t returned to them by the voter, the Secretary of State lets the county know. This process did not happen last year. The action was postponed. Because of the timing of the May primary, it’s now not going to happen this year. Under Section 1 of the statue, there has to be a ninety day cessation period of this practice, around elections.

The system is having issues. It may have something to do with the data breach.

 

 

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