The Impact of Georgia’s New Voting Law on County Elections

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3 mins read
fulton county board of elections

I am seeing a welcome attention on the portions of SB 202 related to suspension and takeover of county superintendents. Let’s take a deeper dive into what exactly a county election superintendent does and why this takeover risk is so dangerous, especially in this form.

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The first problem is oversight.

The State Election Board (SEB) already had the authority to run a county election under 21-2-32 of the Georgia Code (the compendium of all laws in Georgia). But that provision required judicial oversight. This new law removes the judiciary entirely and places sole authority in the SEB. 

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And, recall, the SEB is now controlled by appointees from the General Assembly, whose members are elected under the authority of the SEB.

Any appointee on behalf of the SEB will exercise the full authority of a board — and in most major counties that means the board of elections and registration combined — with full hiring and firing authority.

Spending county money with no accountability to the county. 

So what do election superintendents do?

Well, for starters, they set the number and locations of precincts and polling places. These decisions can make it easier for voters, or harder, especially when the law forces counties to throw out provisional ballots cast out of precinct.

The superintendent also sets and publishes early voting locations. This single decision is one of the most impactful ones on voter access in a county.

Fulton County had more than 30 early voting locations for the Senate runoffs, including two mega-sites. Would an appointee accountable only to the GOP/general assembly-controlled SEB do the same?

The superintendent also determines whether to uphold or reject voter challenges, which now must be heard within 10 days.

You know, like the 360,000 voters challenged in December 2021, which most superintendents considered a violation of the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act of 1993).

The superintendent also determines which provisional ballots to count, and which voters have not sufficiently proven their eligibility to cast a ballot.

In short, election superintendents have enormous impact on who gets to vote in a county, and how easy it will be to cast a ballot.

An appointee may not be able to change votes that are cast — but sure can change who casts them.

Oh — and lest I forget, superintendents certify election results. Like the Fulton County Board of Elections that certified the results of the November election by 3-2.

I’m venturing into speculative territory, but here are the November results out of Fulton County. If these votes had never been certified, which was how GOP members voted, they would not have been included in statewide totals. Senate would have been re-run. But the race for president? We are looking at Bush v. Gore.

This article originally appeared as a Twitter thread on the author’s timeline and has been slightly modified.


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