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Increasing size of elections board floated

Panel could add two members

POSTED: January 8, 2014 12:30 a.m.
 

The possibility of increasing the size of the Forsyth County Board of Elections from three to five members has surfaced, though many specifics remain undetermined.

Instead of one Republican and one Democrat, it appears each party could have two representatives on the panel. Discussion beyond that hasn’t occurred.

Still to be decided, said District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, are what would define a quorum, how votes would be taken and other questions the elections board raised during its meeting Monday.

“There is no bill,” said Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming who wasn’t at the meeting. “The communication wasn’t done correctly and so now that I’ve been made aware of this, we’ll be happy to meet with whomever necessary to explain.”

Elections Supervisor Barbara Luth told board members during the meeting that she had received a visit from County Attorney Ken Jarrard, who asked to write a resolution if they supported the initiative.

With so many questions, however, the board tabled the subject for its February meeting, hoping to find some answers before then.

Jarrard, who also didn’t attend the meeting, said it’s typical that members of the local state legislative delegation “want to receive an actual request from the entity affected.”

“I was trying to assist the board ... in expressing either their support or their disapproval of this change to their enabling legislation,” he said.

“This is so conceptual at this point, there’s no more specifics other than the general notion of expanding it by two members — one from each party.”

Donald Glover, the court-appointed elections board chairman who does not represent either party, was skeptical of any potential changes.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and we ain’t broke,” he said. “It’s going to be more expensive to our department for meeting money ... that would be my concern that we don’t have a real problem to fix.”

Hamilton, who also was not at the meeting, said the Forsyth County Republican Party asked him to look at increasing the size of the elections board.

“In principle, it makes a lot of sense. It’s a logical move as Forsyth County continues to grow,” he said.

Hamilton said many like-sized counties have five-member boards, so “that told me that three is probably not the right number.”

If one of the members representing a party was unable to attend the meeting, which has happened in the past, votes could have been left up to the sole Democrat or Republican.

Adding an additional member would prevent one party having full control over a vote.

But Luth said that wasn’t really happening to begin with, even though both party representatives have missed at least one meeting each in the past year.

“We’ve been very, very careful that we have a full board here when we have new business [to approve],” she said.

Hamilton said the change wouldn’t alter the “political dynamics of the board. We’re just trying to get a little more depth as the size of the county has increased.”

“There’s nothing sinister here, just to increase the size to give more coverage,” he said. “The county has grown, so has the number of elections and elected positions as the delegation has grown, and so there’s still going to be equal representation between both parties.

“At this point, the dialogue is started and we’ll figure out if it’s something we want to do.”

 

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