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Elections board revisits possibility of adding members

State lawmaker helps clear up confusion

POSTED: January 16, 2014 12:30 a.m.
 

Legislation is in the works to possibly increase the size of the Forsyth County board of elections, but the panel hasn’t made any decisions yet.

The board met Tuesday to further discuss whether to add one more Republican and another Democrat appointee for a total of five members. The elections board would still be led by an independent, court-appointed chairman.

The issue was first raised at the Jan. 6 meeting, when the board tabled the matter to receive more information.

District 25 state Rep. Mark Hamilton attended the Tuesday meeting to clarify some of the previous confusion.

Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming, said he didn’t expect board members to pass a resolution supporting a bill they hadn’t seen.

What he did want to know, however, was whether the three-member panel favors the concept of adding two people.

“This is not a condemnation of anything in the past. It’s not a condemnation that three is not enough, that you’ve done a bad job — that was one of the concerns [I heard],” Hamilton said.

“I’m here because to me it sounded like a plausible, proactive way to keep thing from causing problems in the future.”

Hamilton said he’d been asked by constituents to look at expanding the size of the panel.

He started by checking what counties of a similar population have done, and found that the seven comparable to Forsyth have five or more members on the elections board.

Since Forsyth is growing, Hamilton felt it was a “reasonable consideration” that the elections board may want to expand, noting most other Forsyth boards have five members.

He discussed some of the benefits of additional members Tuesday, with the primary reason being to increase the stability of the board in case of sickness, personal emergency or even death.

“Heaven forbid,” Hamilton said, “but the point is, those things happen. When you’ve only got three people if you lose one or one can’t be there … five gives you a little bit of strength.”

He suggested that the method of voting, appointing members from parties and the independent chairman leading the board remain the same. A quorum would still be a majority of the board.

The seven-member local state legislative delegation must unanimously pass a bill increasing the size from three to five, Hamilton said. The lawmakers don’t want to do that unless they hear first from the board it will affect.

Chairman Donald Glover said the increase made sense in case of emergency absences, but he added that the board typically postpones important matters when not all members are present.

“You’ve got to depend on the integrity of the board,” said Glover, noting that the current membership has that trait and takes its duties “very seriously.”

While he didn’t see a need to expand, he also didn’t see any reason it would change the board’s focus.

The legislation that formed the panel in 1987 tasks the party appointees with representing their groups.

If the elections board had two members from the same party, Glover said, they should convey the same opinions from their constituencies. He added that the forming legislation set the pay in 1987 and it hasn’t changed since then.

Glover requested that Hamilton also check with comparable counties on board member compensation. The current rate in Forsyth is $50 per meeting.

If a bill moves forward, a change in pay could be included if appropriate, Glover said.

After clearing up some of the confusion about what the proposal entailed and how it came about, the board asked Hamilton to draft legislation for it to review and possibly vote on Feb. 3.

Also on Tuesday, the elections office conducted a recount of the State House District 22 race, and the 278 votes in Forsyth County returned the same results.

The runoff for the post between Sam Moore and Meagan Biello will take place Feb 4.

 

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