The Georgia State Electoral Council on Wednesday appointed a majority panel of Republicans to review the performance of the Fulton County Electoral Council, another step toward a potential Republican takeover of the electoral system in the largest Democratic county in the state.
The three-member panel will consist of two Republicans and one Democrat: Rickey Kittle, a Republican member of the Catoosa County Election Council; Stephen Day, a Democratic member of the Gwinnett County Electoral Council; and Ryan Germany, an attorney for the office of Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
The moves around the Fulton County Electoral Council have come as Republican-controlled lawmakers across the country for more power over election administration, often in an effort 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 for many provincial election boards in Georgia to be restructured, potentially allowing more local GOP officials to take over positions.
The state election board had to appoint the panel that judges Fulton County under the Georgia electoral law that Republicans passed in March. Republican state lawmakers representing the county called for the review last month.
Fulton County, the largest in the state and encompassing much of Atlanta, has a long history of election struggles, including a disastrous June 2020 primaries that took hours of voting lines.
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 confirmed by three recounts and audits. Democrats view the request as a political stunt at best, and at worst a partisan takeover in the most sweeping county for their party in Georgia.
President Biden carried Fulton County in November with 73 percent of the vote and over 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 Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia, who had long been a solid Republican but tended toward Democrats in the presidential election and two runoff rounds in the Senate last year.
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 Georgia voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic nominee for governor.
The review panel is one of several provisions in Georgia’s new electoral law that lay the groundwork for the takeover of election administration by partisan lawmakers.
But any potential change in control of the Fulton County Electoral Council would be a lengthy process, likely to take months, given the many steps required by the voting law.
Mr Raffensperger, the State Secretary, expressed his support for the panel, write on Twitter“I’ve been saying for a long time that the state needs the authority to intervene when counties have consistently failed their voters.”
“I am confident that the performance review team will do a good job and I hope Fulton will be part of this process,” he said.