Everything’s just fine in Fulton, apparently

Earlier this afternoon, the State Election Board of Georgia voted not to take control of Fulton County’s elections, after completion of a nearly two-year-long performance review. According to the state board, Fulton “made substantial improvements to training, processes and procedures” during the course of the review, resulting in the decision not to appoint a replacement board.

I certainly hope that’s the case, but I admit to being skeptical. Every major Presidential or statewide election cycle, of the 159 counties in Georgia, about 155 or 156 run their elections with few problems. And every major cycle, Fulton, DeKalb, and perhaps one or two others experience major issues. Sometimes it’s long lines, or insufficient voting machines, or too few polling locations, or extreme delays in counting, or all of the above.

Counties have always been in charge of their own elections in Georgia. The Secretary of State’s office makes certain decisions for the state, like the type of voting equipment to be used, and provides that equipment, along with training, to the counties prior to each election. But, at least up until 2021, neither the Secretary of State nor the State Election Board has any authority to make any county election board open or close precincts, have a certain level of staff or equipment at any given location, ensure sufficient people to count votes in a timely manner, or otherwise interfere with the conduction of elections.

That fact has proven very convenient to Democrats, and our friends in the media, when they look for an angle to explain why counties that are largely or entirely run by Democrats are also the counties that have the worst records of operating elections competently. They just blame statewide elected Republicans for the problem. The fact that statewide Republicans do not and cannot tell counties (run by Democrats or not) how to run their elections has never been an impediment to this line of blame casting.

At least, that’s how things worked until Brian Kemp signed SB202 into law in 2021. This bill made a number of reasonable, moderate election reforms, including items like eliminating signature match that had previously been championed by Democrats. So, naturally, the Democrats lost their collective minds and called it “Jim Crow 2.0”. One such provision was a section allowing the State Election Board to investigate counties that had consistently failed to operate their elections in a reasonable manner, and if certain specific criteria were met, to replace the election boards in those counties.

Finally, statewide officials (who still tend to be Republican in Georgia) had a tool that could be used to resolve issues in counties that continuously fail their voting populace in terms of elections operations. The Democrats’ response was to claim this was a “hostile takeover” of counties where investigations were started. No doubt they preferred the system where they could blame statewide Republicans for their failures without giving said statewide officials any path to resolve the problems.

Well, now the State Election Board has chosen not to take over Fulton County’s elections, hostilely or otherwise. I very much hope, for the sake of Fulton’s voters, the board was correct in its assessment that substantial improvements have been made that will prevent the issues we’ve seen there in election after election after election.

Because, if not, I can guarantee right now that the Democrats won’t care that the state actively refused to take charge in Fulton and allowed the county to continue on its own path. If we see the types of issues there that we’ve seen in past election cycles, we’ll see statewide Republicans being blamed as fast as the AJC can update its web site. Who knows what version of “Jim Crow” we’ll be at by then?

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