Fulton County, a Democrat bastion that includes most of the city of Atlanta, has long been the target of Republican lawmakers' ire. Their attacks only intensified after former President Donald Trump and his allies made allegations that fraud in the county added to his narrow loss in the state. An independent monitor found no proof of fraud or impropriety.
GOP lawmakers last month asked the state board to appoint a performance review panel to investigate Fulton County's handling of elections. The requests started a process described in the state's sweeping new election law that could allow the Republican-controlled state board to succeed the county's board of registration and elections with an administrator it chooses.
The Republican lawmakers who asked for the review announced they want to guarantee that election officials in the county, which is home to roughly 11% of the state's electorate, have been following state voting laws and regulations. Democrats and voting rights activists have announced the new takeover provision could allow political interference in local elections.
Under the new law, lawmakers who represent a given county may demand a review of local election officials. In Fulton County, that’s the county board of registration and elections. The review board is to be composed of “three competent persons,” including an employee of the elections division of the secretary of state’s office and two “local election officials.”
The review board is tasked with conducting a complete and thorough investigation into the competency in the maintenance and operation of election equipment, the administration and failure of registration and elections, and compliance with state law and guidance. Then the board is to publish a report with evaluations and recommendations.
The research is to be followed by a preliminary hearing within 90 days of the receipt of the original request. Throughout that preliminary hearing, the State Election Board is to decide whether the matter should be dismissed or whether it should continue to a full hearing.
The state board could suspend the county board if it finds proof county officials violated state election law or rules three times since 2018 and have not fixed violations. It could further remove the county board if it discovers that throughout at least two elections over two years the board has shown “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence.”
The State Election Board, currently with a 3-1 Republican majority, would select a temporary administrator to run Fulton County elections if it finds wrongdoing. The county board could seek reinstatement. If the state board declines, its administrator would stay in place for at least nine months. The administrator would have the authority to make any personnel changes related to running elections, including replacing the director of elections and all poll officers.