Politics: League of Women Voters concerned about no Floyd elections chief during the general election. Chair of elections board says vote is progressing smoothly; only issue could be special election for House seat.

Politics: League of Women Voters concerned about no Floyd elections chief during the general election. Chair of elections board says vote is progressing smoothly; only issue could be special election for House seat.

Some members of the League of Women Voters of Rome-Floyd County are upset to learn Floyd County won’t have a sitting elections supervisor for the Nov. 6 general election cycle, which technically is under way with absentee voting and advance voting starting Oct. 15.

An email sent to dozens and dozens of members on Wednesday included the subject line “Action Alert: Citizen Notification.” In her email, league President Rebecca Moye urges members to attend the Oct. 8 Board of Elections meeting to protest the lack of an elections supervisor for the midterms. Dr. Willie Green III, who had been serving as the elections czar since Evon Billups retirement, resigned more than a month ago. Recruitment is under way (click to see the help wanted ad).

Writes Moye:

“Although we felt saddened by his (Green’s) departure, it was assumed the position would be filled and our county’s elections would move on without a hitch.  The Elections Supervisor is responsible for overseeing every aspect of our election process including maintaining equipment, training volunteers and reporting early election turn out. Currently, the position is still unfilled with no suitable applicants presented to the Board of Elections from Floyd County Human Resources.

“The League of Women Voters of Rome-Floyd County has inquired to the Chairman of the Board, Steve Miller, about the strategy to secure a supervisor for the upcoming Nov. 6 election.  We were informed that Mr. Miller, a local Realtor by trade, will be overseeing the elections this year.

“I am writing all of you to make you aware that the LWV Rome-Floyd County has notified the LWVGA (state office) and the LWVUS (national office) concerning the matter. It is imperative that our community has a qualified Chief Election Official for our 25 polling sites and that our citizens do not have to worry about the security and integrity of our system.

“Please join us for the regular Board of Elections meeting on Monday, Oct 8, at noon at 12 E. Fourth Ave., Rome, to display our concern for the lack of a qualified supervisor.  We hope that a showing of community unity will press the board to act.”

Moye ends her note by sharing the email addresses of Miller and board members Mardi Haynes-Jackson and Dr. Tom Rees.

We shared her note with Miller, the elections board chair, and he had this response:

“Since I spoke with Ms. Moye earlier this week, I assumed she understood how the process of conducting an election in Floyd County was structured. As I told her, the “Elections Supervisor” organizes the election at the direction of the board, and as one of his/her duties. The “board” oversees the election.

“Since the departure of Dr. Green, the board’s primary function has to been to focus on the upcoming election to ensure we are well prepared. This is no different than any other election that has taken place during the six years I have chaired the board, and do not anticipate any issues in conducting the election per state and federal law. I personally, as well as Mrs. Mardi Jackson, are in contact with the office on a regular basis, and since the vacancy was created, together I estimate we are allocating a minimum of 30 hours a week on election matters related to the November election, since my job as a “Realtor” affords me this leniency, which I suppose is a good thing.

“As you may know, our 14th District Representative, Mr. Christian Coomer, has been appointed to the Appeals Court, and when he vacates his position as our representative, we will need to conduct a “Special Primary” election. I have been told that this could be required to take place at the same time as the Nov. 6 (election) and if this is the case would definitely cause much additional work for our office, which we are also preparing for.

“While we are reviewing resumes and applications to fill the position of Chief Clerk during this time, our primary focus at this time is the upcoming election, and to ensure we have a completely “normal” election on Nov.  6.

“Finally, our meetings are always open to the public and this is where I would recommend any citizen interested in attending please do so to obtain information and not guess at what is taking place.

“Thanks again, Steve.”

Updates: We do have notes into the Georgia Secretary of State’s office for confirmation but we are assured Miller and the board are certified for processing votes.

BACKGROUND:

The league’s call-to-action is the latest development regarding Floyd County’s elections system this year.

  • It started with early voting for the May 22 primary as errors were discovered on some city of Rome residents’ ballots. At issue: They included county school board races  (uncontested races at that). The error was spotted a day or two into the three-week advance voting cycle but no changes were made. Elections officials had to void just those votes on election night, creating a delay in getting results in a key local race for superior court judge between Kay Ann Wetherington and Emily Matson (Wetherington won). The late results prompted calls for changes within in the elections office and management.
  • Almost immediately, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office’s opened an investigation into the ballot errors. The error was classified as  “improper distribution of voters,” says Press Secretary Candice Broce. We’re awaiting the outcome of that investigation.
  • In mid-August, word quietly spread that Green was leaving his post after three years. The county posted a help wanted ad for a “chief clerk” to run the department. The search officially closes on Dec. 31, well after the Nov. 6 general election.

The county’s “help wanted” section seeks a candidate to “administer federal, state, and local elections, to register voters, and to supervise the daily operations of the elections office, as directed by the Floyd County Board of Elections Chairperson.”  The position pays a surprisingly low hourly salary of $16.22 to $17.88 an hour or barely $37,200 a year before benefits.

Green’s tenure was marked by progressive improvements to the elections office and expansion of advance voting locations. Green also was diligent in communicating election data to the community, especially with daily vote counts during advance voting and even turnout updates through the day of the elections.

The three-person elections board also is going through changes with Miller and Haynes-Jackson leaving Dec. 31 as their terms expire. The County Commission last month appointed Melanie Conrad and Jeff McLeod to the board.

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