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Dekalb County Board of Registration and Elections Meeting 06/02/21

Attendees:  Samuel Tillman – Chair

        Anthony Lewis (R)

        Susan Motter (D)

        Dele Lowman Smith (D)

        Baoky Vu (R) – Vice Chair

        Mrs. Hamilton, Director, Voter Registration

        Commissioner Ted Terry

        Irene Vander Els – Attorney

        Deborah Covin Wilson, Consultant

        Eric Burton – Communications

        Ms. Baker – Voter Registration Office

        Board of Elections – BoE

        Board of Commissioners – BoC

The meeting began at 4:33 p.m.  The agenda and minutes of previous meetings (October 28, 2020 (Amended Minutes); April 8, 2021; May 13, 2021) were approved by unanimous vote.  There were no public comments.

Commissioner’s Comments – Commissioner Terry explained why he was in the meeting, which was to address the working group goals and to address budgetary items.  He invited BOE members to come to before the Ops committee to present and share any budgets amendments when they begin that deliberation.  Chairman Tillman asked when the commission will vote on the budget to which he responded July 2021.

The committee went into executive session to discuss litigation and returned at 5:14pm.

Status of the Consultant Recommendations:  As promised in the last meeting the Consultant, Deborah Covin Wilson, was introduced to the BOE members and entertained questions.

Dele Lowman Smith – questioned again the best practices highlighted by the consultant, said it was a different area of focus and skillset than the facilitation focus.  How the activities that Mrs. Wilson will be facilitating dovetail with the funding of the existing consultant report.

Mrs. Wilson – stated she’s going to get the best practices from the workgroup but not develop any, that would be out of scope.  She felt the workgroup report was more of a detailed audit and that’s not what they will do.  She said there were a lot of definitions of stakeholders, but she would like to focus on people who were involved in the last two elections, i.e., poll managers, poll workers, nonprofits, board members, Dekalb County support units.  A narrow scope of people who were close into the weeds.  

Dele Lowman Smith – how much of the documented processes and de facto processes will be reviewed as a part of this project.  The lessons learned is the gap between how it was supposed to go and how it went and how will that be address and given to the board.  

Mrs. Wilson – With the focus group she plans of getting feedback on how things were actully happened.  Will also use a survey along with the focus group.

Susan Motter – Mentioned Mrs. Wilson said she was going to reach out to stakeholders and inquire from them what their best practices are.  What will she do with the information obtained?  

Mrs. Wilson, you will receive a document with all the analysis.  

Susan Motter questioned her asking the workers what their best practices, as a board member her concern was if there were actually “best practices” and were they being followed and if they need to correct strategy that is being addressed and done.  She asked Ms. Hamilton to work with Mrs. Wilson to attain what she is asking for.

Mrs. Wilson – Will also look at communication practices.  Did info flow to them directly or through someone else.  In her other projects there were 290 individuals who assisted, and a lot of information was gleaned from them from Dekalb County.

Dele Lowman Smith – It may be less confusion to take out the term “best practices” and Mrs. Wilson agreed.  Mrs. Wilson will adjust the proposal and get it back to the board.

Discussion of Working Group Goals:   Chairman Tillman stated he had just received a copy of the BoC’s Resolution.  He said that the BoE had not had any discussion on this resolution.  He states that the Board should have had input instead of giving them an already approved Resolution.  He intimated once again that if the Board is not vigilant others will be doing the BoE’s job.

Commissioner Terry – Last year a workgroup was established between the Operations Commission, BoE, Dekalb and it appeared that all were working well together.  After the elections it came up about how we capture what happened and what’s next.  The Commissioners did not mean to overreach.  SPS202 will create its own set of issues. The goal was to capture what happen (Consultant) and what was next.   He said they realized there was a lot of overlap in what is being done.  One top priority is to ensure that the elections and operations are fully funded because the upcoming elections will be more expensive.  The BoC is the appropriator, they must vote to spend money, the charter is clear that the BoC can amend the budget at any time during the year.  We may find that we will need to be able to respond to any situation that may arise.  Two, where there was overlap, making sure the connecting tissue is strong and everyone is supporting the overall effort with free and fair elections, access, civic engagement good communication, strategic plans ensuring both boards have the same vision/destination.  When the board is back with whomever for the next two-year terms they will get started.  

Mr. Lewis – stated he was happy to hear Commissioner Terry’s statement about funding.  The Board has been sorely underfunded.  We are one of the largest counties in the state with the lowest paid staff.  He stated that the resolution the following four areas of interest:  Poll Worker training, ballot printing, processing, and tallying, voter communication, technical improvements, and operations, all of which the board is already doing.  He went on to give a brief history on how the working group came about.  The resolution states the commission members in the workgroup will choose the members of the BoE to serve on the committee.  He pointed out that the commissioners were elected, and the members of the BoE were volunteers and that they would need to ask for volunteers not designate a volunteer to serve on the group.

Chairman Tillman stated the only responsibility of the BoC is to fund the BoE.  The Resolution does not address funding but is telling the BoE what to do.  He said the BoE did not endorse anyone to serve on the original ad hoc committee and asked the minutes reflect that.

Commissioner Terry said the lawyer made them say that in the resolution, Mr. Tillman responded that he should take it back to the lawyers and tell them to undo it.

Dele Lowman Smith – stated she was on the original ad hoc committee and the workgroup was to be a continuation of that committee.  She made it abundantly clear that she did not have a copy of the resolution and if they are moving from an ad hoc committee to a standing committee, she’d be willing to work with that.  She said the standing committee would need a charter, purpose, goals, and a long-term purpose.  She said the BoE is the body that oversees the elections, but the commissioners are the public face, so it is important to establish the repertiore/discussion.  She also felt that the resolution implied funding.

The Chairman asked and received a motion to table the discussion on the Resolution until the next meeting and asked Mr. Terry to relook the resolutions and change it to include the BoE’s name somewhere in the document.

Timeline for Resumption of In-Person Meetings – the body voted to table this action until the next board meeting.  Dele Lowman-Smith asked that Mrs. Hamilton come back with some recommendations/courses of action on in-person meeting.

Communications Update – Eric Burton – Overview of the website was sent to the board via email.  He has met with IT talking about the analytics over the last 12 months (1.2 million visits to the website) so this information can help them create an “above the fold” site.  Trying to humanize the site through the language use.  Going to do an education breakout section because people don’t want to read two pages of FAQs.  Especially with SB202 they will be doing short video and vignettes.  At the next meeting they will talk about the communication plan.

Directions Report – Ms. Hamilton They are working with pension board administrator, will take place in July with the election in August.  Staffers reviewing their procedures to ensure all the SB202 changes have been captured. SB 202 is activated on July 1.  The state will run the no action in two general elections in the coming weeks and the staff is preparing for the number of notices that will go out.  Working with the finance department to prepare for the mid-year budget cycle.  Will discuss closing out the grant and will provide a CTOC final report copy to the board when done.  Will start bringing in the temporary staff in July to prepare for the upcoming elections.  Having staff developments.  About to notify all seniors and disabled voters to the changes due to SB202 for the changes especially in the absentee voting.  Also working with IT about ensuring the building of a robust call center.  Poll worker application is now an online submittable form and working on an automated complaint form that will go directly to her offices.  She hired a new Administrative Coordinator over the admin division Ms. Venetta Stokes.  She thanked the board for their support (this being the last meeting for the current board).  She will provide a list of elections; she should get the information by June 25.

Dele Lowman Smith asked about the email about the Ga Officials conference and was there any funding for committee members to attend.  Mrs. Hamilton said that would be in their training allocation and they needed to submit a request and they would process it.

Mr. Lewis asked about the 229 challenges left over from January and what will be done about them.  Mrs. Hamilton said there are three sets of the challenges, first the 39K will send letters letting them know and if that is returned, they will send a confirmation letter and if that is returned the person will go on the inactive status, they are working on the letter now.  The other two processes the board will have to set dates for the hearing, and notices will go out so the voter will know there will be a hearing to challenge their voter registration.  The timeline is 10 days after the hearing is set and the voters will be notified.  

Mrs. Hamilton stated that there had not be a resolution to accepting Mrs. Covin Wilson.  A motion was given by Dele Lowman Smith to approve the new proposal based on the changes (updated scope of work) discussed with Mrs. Covin Wilson.  The motion carried unanimously.
Board Comments – Each board member gave comments all reflecting on the end of their two-year service, thanking everyone.  Everyone alluded to the swift passage of time and Mr. Baoky stated “Time flies when it seems like democracy is under assault”

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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