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Fulton turns to local elections adviser
Smith led Forsyth office for eight years
Smith WEB

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections is getting a little help from a Forsyth County resident.

Gary J. Smith, Forsyth’s former elections supervisor, began work Friday as a consultant to Fulton for the Nov. 6 General election.

“I’m the only one in their office right now that’s directed an election,” said Smith, who led the Forsyth office for eight years ending in July 2010.

Sharon Mitchell, serving as the interim director of Fulton’s elections office, replaced the previous director, who resigned last month after an arrest stemming from failure to follow the terms of a driving under the influence case.

But Smith said Mitchell’s expertise is with voter registration, not managing elections.

“We’re going to work closely together and I’m sure we’ll have a good working relationship,” said Smith, adding that he hopes his work as a consultant will make the office self-sufficient for the next election.

“Nobody wants to see any county have a difficult election,” he said. “As a former member of the Georgia Election Officials Association Board … I don’t want to see this thing go bad.

“I want to see them come out of it and run elections just as well as Forsyth County runs elections.”

The Fulton County elections office issued a statement regarding Smith’s selection, saying it was “pleased to have [him] join our team.”

“He brings many years of experience in Georgia elections, having previously served as director of registration and elections for Forsyth County,” the statement said.

“Our General Election preparation and early voting have been going smoothly, and his elections expertise will only enhance our efforts. Our goal continues to be to run a transparent and efficient election.”

Smith’s work with Fulton is limited to nine weeks, for which he said he’s being paid $42 an hour, or “much less than I normally make.”

For Smith, who’s also consulted on municipal elections, including for the cities of Sandy Springs and East Point, it wasn’t about the money.

“I knew they had some issues that they wanted to take care of and frankly, I was interested in making sure Fulton didn’t have any kind of disaster like they had in 2008 [with the absentee balloting process],” Smith said.

While Smith was hired to help for the upcoming election, that process began last week with early voting.

“I can’t help with anything that’s already been in place,” he said. “Most things have already been done from that standpoint. Early voting has been going, the logic and accuracy tests have been finished, training the poll workers is almost done. We’re down the last two weeks.

“It’s been good to see that there are people that really do want to take care of the issues, and that we are forming a plan that would identify what the problems were by the election.”

Smith said he hasn’t seen any issues since he started, but the real problems from the past, such as the July primary election, have been with not following the chain of custody.

“The biggest thing, really, is ensuring the chain of custody is followed — that the systems are sent out and secured and that the proper documentation is returned in the same manner.”