Members: Alex Wan, Chair; Aaron Johnson; Mark Wingate; Vernetta Keith Nuridden, , Vice Chair; Dr. Katherine Ruth
Staff: Mariska Bodison, Patrick Eskridge, Sharon Benjamin, Ralph Jones, Nadine Williams
Meeting chaired by Alex Wan:
1. Approval of Agenda – approved
2. Communications and Public Response (One comment thanking Ms. Nuridden for her service)
3. Approval of Minutes: Ø Executive Session Meeting- April 15, 2021 Ø Special Meeting/ Work Session- May 4, 2021 Ø Regular Meeting- May 13, 2021 Ø Executive Session Meeting- May 13, 2021
All were approved.
4. Monthly Operations Report for May 2021 – presented by Director Richard Barron and comments from all board members and County election staff. This section took up most of the meeting, ~90 minutes; topics included budget, staffing, confirmation of persons on voter rolls, equipment, voting issues making headlines recently, current audit.
- Budget: Mr. Barron has been trying to use grant funds from Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to pay invoices for temporary staff hired to support the 2020 elections (esp. early voting). This grant funding expires June 30th. County Board of Commissioners must give approval to use these funds to pay the personnel contracting agency, otherwise those invoices will have to be paid from general funds. the proposal to fund out of the grant monies has been taken to the Board of Commissioners twice before and was not supported due to insufficient “aye” votes. At this week’s meeting the vote was postponed when a BOC member had to leave precipitously.
- Staffing: The BRE submitted requisitions to hire 9 additional personnel this year and wants to hire 11 new ones in 2022. However, in order to staff early voting locations for the 2021 election cycle, there’s not enough time to hire and train enough staff as County employees; the shortest possible turnaround between decision to hire and new staff beginning orientation is 45 days. So once again, the BRE will rely on an outside vendor to supply staff. The BRE needs approval to either continue with their preferred vendor, Happy Faces (for lots of reasons that were shared), or begin the process of engaging other vendors. The BOC still has to approve that process. Members of the BRE strongly encouraged Mr. Baron to develop contingency plans with a concrete timeline to manage the process so Fulton County is not caught unprepared. In addition, BRE members encouraged Mr. Barron to reach out to individual County Commissioners to emphasize the need for a timely decision; also to be in contact w/ municipalities that are counting on Fulton County to conduct their elections to contact their commissioners and urge approval of the BRE’s requests.
- Confirming/cleaning and increasing voter rolls: new registrations down from this time last year, after increasing annually since 2015. Felons are allowed to vote after serving sentence: letters going to them to let them know they should register. Mailing to determine and document changes of address in already registered voters.
- Equipment: Director Barron said he would like to see enough equipment to cover 3 activities at the same or closely adjacent times: training, early voting sites, election day sites. Also upgrading electronic pads to make it easier for poll workers to log in on election day.
- Recent headlines:  regarding a security alarm going off in a ballot warehouse June 1, being investigated but AJC has been told no breach of ballots stored there.  June 14 article in The Georgia Star News that a Fulton County election official admitted that chain of custody documents are missing for absentee ballots deposited in drop boxes in the 2020 election. A point-by-point rebuttal of the allegations is being prepared and sent to the author.
- Audit: Some kind of audit is being conducted by the Fulton County Audit Dept, draft report to be issued June 30; topic/issues not disclosed.
5. Acknowledgement of Vice Chair Mrs. Vernetta Keith Nuriddin for years of service: She was elegantly praised by all as this was her last meeting.
6. Approval of Drop Boxes throughout the County:
Drop box locations: number decreased from 38 in 2020 to 8 now per SB202. Working group using GIS plus volume of voters in last year to select the 8 sites. BOE reviewed and approved the suggestions with one change. SB 202 also states that any municipality conducting its own elections (as opposed to having Fulton county BRE do it) must have its own dropbox for that election. In cases when both municipal and County or State elections are happening in the same cycle, this will require two separate ballots (one for the municipal election and one for the other) and two separate drop boxes, which may be in 2 separate locations. Discussion whether the District commissioners need to approve plan.
7. Voter Education and Outreach Plan:
The existing materials and procedures are being updated. Board members received draft copies in their packets. There was mention of measuring outcomes but not what outcomes or how. Mr. Eskridge said a timeline for finalizing the plan will be forthcoming.
EXECUTIVE SESSION Personnel Matters and/or Discussion of Litigation.
- 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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