DeKalb County Board of Elections Meeting 04/08/21

Start Time: 4:30

End Time: 5:17

Attendees: Chair Samuel Tillman, Dele Lowman Smith, Anthony Lewis, Susan Motter 

Commissioner Maria Johnson, Mr. Erik Burton, Ms. Erica Hamilton 

Mr. Tillman calls the meeting to order 4:30 pm.

Approval of Agenda:

Motion by Mr. Lewis, seconded by Ms. Motter to approve the agenda.

Motion carries by unanimous vote.

Adoption of Minutes:

Motion by Ms. Lowman Smith and seconded by Mr. Lewis to adopt the minutes for the BRE meeting that occurred on March 26, 2021. 

Motion carries by unanimous vote. 

Public Comments: No comment from the public

Commissioner comments: No comment from commissioners.

Executive Session: 

Motion by Mr. Lewis, seconded by Ms. Lowman Smith to recess for executive session for purposes of litigation.

Motion carries by unanimous vote.  

Mr. Lewis moves to return to the regularly scheduled session.

Motion carries unanimously.

No votes were taken in executive session.

Communications Update:

Mr. Erik Burton says the office is working to advance notes on SB 202. He says that a presentation will be shared with the board in the coming weeks and additional information will be shared with the public shortly about changes that are outlined in this bill. 

Mr. Tillman requests that the office publicize the fact that the Office of Voter Registrations and Elections has the capability to print ID cards for voters and asks for a number that could be used on an absentee ballot be added to ID cards printed by the office. 

Mr. Burton responds that the office is working on updating ID cards and is communicating with other municipalities on how to do so. 

Director’s Report: 

Director Erica Hamilton says the office is working on how to implement SB 202 and verifying information before releasing it to the public. She says there will be a meeting with cities the second week in May for training ahead of November municipal elections. She announces a meeting with Commissioner Ted Terry on April 22 at 11:00 am about a resolution to reenact the [DeKalb Stakeholder] Working Group [on Elections] that the OPS Committee is planning to pass next week. The group will be comprised of two members of each political party, two board members, a municipal representative, and three commissioners. She recommends that someone from the Office of Voter Registration and Elections be in the working group as well. She also shares that the office is working on a midyear budget plan. The April 22 meeting to discuss it with the board will be moved back for a consultant hired by the financial department to finalize post-election analysis first.

Ms. Lowman Smith asks if there is reconciliation for grant spending yet, since it was previously requested by the board.

Ms. Hamilton responds that some invoices are still coming in, she hopes to have the reconciliation by the middle of next week. She also adds that the purchase of a bus was canceled due to provisions in SB 202. Grant funding previously allocated for the bus will be used somewhere else.

Mr. Tillman says that Board Members will have to take back the responsibility given to it by law. He believes board members have been relinquishing that responsibility. He says commissioners and the public will have to let the board do its job, and that board members must support each other and their staff. He believes there has been too much interference with the board and in the Elections office over the past two years. 

Commissioner Comments: 

Maria Davis-Johnson says it was never the commissioners’ intent to try to operate elections and that because the board of commissioners appropriates funds for the Board of Elections, it is concerned with funding more than operations. She thought primary and presidential election were evidence of Board of Elections’ successful election administration. She expresses again that it was not the board of commissioners’ intent to take over. She states that commissioners wanted to involve DeKalb partners, and she wants the board of elections to continue to work with the board of commissioners as partners that can enhance each other’s work. She believes the chair of the OPS Committee [Ted Terry] will be on the next call for comment. 

Mr. Tillman agrees there is a difference between assistance/offering advice and taking over.

Comments from the board:

Mr. Lewis: Thanks the staff. Says that reconstitution of the working group should come to the board for a vote and the whole board will need to discuss it before it moves forward because this meeting was the first he had heard of the proposal. 

Ms. Motter: Thanks poll workers, election department staff. In response to Mr. Tillman’s comments, she says that she has not relinquished her responsibilities and that for him to state so publicly is an overreach. Says there is still a lack of transparency around Board’s work. Requests more information about budget, staffing, and other areas, specifically information cited by staff in recommendations during meetings. Expresses disappointment to be named in lawsuits in her official capacity while not receiving full information in aforementioned categories as a member of the board. Says it is right for the board to respond to public concerns and requests for a review of the office, as it did in 2019 [when the working group was first created]. It is routine to hire outside consultants. Says Chair’s statement that she had relinquished responsibility were insulting.

Ms. Lowman Smith: Affirms her support for reconstituting the working group. Agrees with commissioner that collaboration is the only way for public organizations to be successful, does not see collaboration as an encroachment on our responsibility or duties. Thanks staff. Says there is no way elections administration would have been as successful as it was in 2020 and 2021 without collaboration and support of partners. Commissioner Terry and she took a site visit in February or March to Orange County California to see their election operations, which Commissioner Terry presented on. Hopes the findings will be discussed at a later meeting or a special meeting. Wants full involvement in budgeting, as Ms. Motter alluded to. Trusts the OPS Committee that funds the board will work in harmony with them. States her deep disappointment at the adoption of SB 202. Is confident the staff will adapt as required to by law and hopes the board will double down on commitment to make voting fully accessible and will oppose partisan efforts to tamp down the enthusiasm and turnout that was seen in 2020. 

Mr. Tillman: Remarks that if Ms. Motter that if she does not want to be named in lawsuits, she is on the wrong board.

Adjournment: 

Motion by Mr. Lewis and seconded by Ms. Lowman Smith to adjourn the board.

Motion carries unanimously.

Note: All comments summarized, not direct quotes.


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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