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Henry County Board of Elections Meeting 07/15/20

Meeting Details:

Meeting start time: 1:00pm  and end time: unknown; volunteer was removed approximately 1:30pm after Zoom-bombing. See below for details.

Board members present: Dan Richardson, Dr. Donna Morris-McBride, Andy (Charles) Callaway, Arch Brown, Mildred Schmelz

Number of members of the public present: Ameika Pitts (Director), Terrika Davis (staff), 2 other staffers in attendance

If meeting was not held at the original scheduled time, was a notice of the change posted to the public? Yes, posted on Facebook & Henry Count BOE website

Where and when? Posted 1 week in advance (original meeting for July 1 postponed at short notice due to COVID-19 exposure in the meeting room)

Meeting Notes:

  • Call to Order
  • Unanimous approval of agenda
  • Unanimous approval of June meeting minutes
  • Chair Richardson’s remarks: Thanks & appreciation from chair as new Chair and Vice Chair will be elected during this meeting.
  • Election of Chair & Vice Chair for 2020-21, open the floor for nominations: 

For the position of Chair: Board Member Schmelz nominates Board Member McBride (current Vice Chair) for Chair position, seconded by Board Member Brown, nominations closed, unanimous vote from the board to confirm

For the position of Vice Chair: Board Member Andy Callaway nominates Board Member Arch Brown, Board Member Arch declines nomination; Chair nominates Board Member Charles (Andy) Callaway for position of Vice Chair

Question from Board Member Schmelz regarding the Board’s Bylaws, which state republican, democrat & non-partisan members must rotate positions

Chair’s understanding is that every opportunity will be made to rotate positions, Board Member Brown has declined chair for personal reasons; anticipates this to be his last year on the board, thinks Vice Chair should rotate into Chair position following their term and since he anticipates this being his last year, would be unable to do so.

Chair Richardson calls point of order: if this motion is not seconded it will die; afterwards board can have a full discussion

Board Member Brown seconds nomination of Board Member Charles Callaway for Vice Chair

Call for a vote, results are 4 for and 0 against, 1 abstention (Board Member Schmelz)

Chair Richardson turns over the meeting to the new Chair, Dr. Donna McBride

  • Old Business
  • Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Planning Report
  • Chair McBride asks if all members received Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Planning Report from Director Ameika Pitts. 
  • Director clarifies this is a tentative plan submitted to the board with assistance from Risk Management, will update board with email once it’s complete, encourages suggestions from board members
  • Board Member Schmelz states that they expects something completed from Director by the next meeting
  • Board Member Richardson – Commends staff for work, wants plan to cover more than just Election Day and include Early Voting and preparations for that. His suggestions include, but are not limited to: utility outages, cybersecurity attacks, equipment failure, natural disasters, riots, protestors, epidemics & pandemics
  • Upcoming August 11th Run-Off Election for Sheriff & District 2 Schoolboard

Schedule for early voting, starting Monday, July 20th – Friday, August 7th, including one Saturday date (August 1). Everyone should have the schedule already.

  • Discussed some complaints at June meeting, including: late starts at several locations, lack of voting machines, leading to long lines at several sites. Asks Director to address corrections to this & opportunity for board members to share any additional complaints received: 
  • Board Member Schmelz –  complaints about receiving wrong partisan ballot (two democratic voters in same household, 1 received democratic ballot and the other received republican, both had requested democratic absentee ballots), drop box not being secure, not enough voting machines at some precincts; overall, given they expected more problems considering problems other counties had
  • Board Member Richardson – Received complaint on June 29th about the process of tallying of absentee ballots, unclear communication about the process for opening ballots and conditions of building (City Manager has acknowledged that the building needed to be cleaned).
  • Also a complaint/concern regarding determining a voter’s intent – there were not always 2 people (one from each party) reviewing absentee ballots in question
  • Board Member Callaway also received same complaint; there is a need to address the process for adjudicating ballots and have it in writing for future elections
  • Board Member Richardson – Recommends looking at Article III of the Board’s bylaws, section 8.5, subsection 4: Duties of the board & rules and regulations, consider putting additional rule regarding notification to the board once number of voting machines for each precinct has been decided upon. Previously this was done, but not for the most recent election, which was detrimental.
  • Chair clarifies with Board Member Richardson – This is a statement, not a motion for revision of bylaws per Board Member Richardson
  • Board Member Brown – Is the county manger going to hire custodial staff and how can they not know what condition the building is in?
  • Chair McBride & Director will look into this before August Runoff Election

Chair wants to hear from the Director, what corrective action has occurred?

  • Director apologizes for not notifying the board the number of voting machines per precinct, will do so in the future
  • The minimum # of machines were sent out for June election for social distancing reasons, recognizes additional backups are needed.
  • Will send additional machines for future, at least 10 per precinct, even if some precincts cannot have all 10 set up for voting at one time due to social distancing, but precincts will have some backup. 
  • Situations, where people came in-person to cancel absentee ballots and vote the day of the election, led to long lines because it is a long process to do this than just voting.
  • For November, they are reviewing locations and what is the maximum number of machines to send in keeping social distance
  • For precincts that started late – Reinforcing in training that can open with provisional ballots rather than delaying.
  • Training back up poll workers, since there were short notice call-outs that impact the operations on Election Day

Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings? 

These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.

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