Politics|Potential G.O.P. Takeover of Atlanta-Area Election Board Inches Forward
Republicans in Georgia took a step toward gaining control over elections in Fulton County, a Democratic bastion.
Aug. 18, 2021, 3:31 p.m. ET
The Georgia State Election Board on Wednesday appointed a majority-Republican panel to review the performance of the Fulton County board of elections, another step toward a potential Republican takeover of the election system in the biggest Democratic county in the state.
The three-person panel will include two Republicans and one Democrat: Rickey Kittle, a Republican member of the Catoosa County election board; Stephen Day, a Democratic member of the Gwinnett County election board; and Ryan Germany, a lawyer for the office of Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state.
The moves surrounding the Fulton County election board have come as Republican-controlled legislatures across the country angle for greater power over election administration, often seeking to strip it from election officials and give it to partisan lawmakers. Those efforts come as former President Donald J. Trump continues to spread lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Republicans have also pushed to restructure many county election boards in Georgia, potentially allowing more local G.O.P. officials to take over positions.
The State Election Board was required to appoint the panel reviewing Fulton County under the Georgia voting law that Republicans passed in March. Republican state lawmakers who represent the county requested the review last month.
Fulton County, which is the largest in the state and includes much of Atlanta, has a long history of struggles with elections, including a disastrous primary in June 2020 in which voting lines lasted for hours.
But Democrats across the state have denounced the push for a performance review there, noting that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud last year and that the election results were affirmed by three recounts and audits. Democrats view the request as a political stunt at best, and at worst a partisan takeover in the most consequential county for their party in Georgia.
President Biden carried Fulton County in November with 73 percent of the vote and more than 380,000 votes. It is home to the largest number of voters of color in the state. Mr. Trump and his Republican allies have falsely denied Mr. Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia, which has long been solidly Republican but last year tilted to the Democrats in the presidential election and two Senate runoffs.
Voting rights groups criticized the review panel — all white and predominantly Republican — as unrepresentative of Fulton County.
“Fulton County voters deserve better than this,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, the chief executive of Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group in Georgia founded by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for governor.
The review panel is one of several provisions in Georgia’s new voting law that lay the groundwork for the takeover of election administration by partisan lawmakers.
But any potential change in control of the Fulton County election board would be a drawn-out process, most likely taking months given the many steps required by the voting law.
Mr. Raffensperger, the secretary of state, indicated his support for the panel, writing on Twitter, “I have been saying for a long time that the state needs the authority to step in when counties have consistently failed their voters.”
“I’m confident that the performance review team will do a good job, and I hope Fulton will cooperate with this process,” he said.