A state lawmaker from Cumming is among 15 officials appointed to a council that will study how to improve Georgia’s election code.
Republican District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton was chosen by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who recently formed an Elections Advisory Council.
“Though we are proud of the progress we have made to secure our elections and guarantee ballot access, I know there are always opportunities to improve our elections processes at all levels of government,” Kemp said in a statement.
Hamilton said he’s excited to get started.
“One of the reasons this advisory council was developed was that we felt like [instead of] every year coming up with a variety of pieces of legislation, why don’t we put up a group that will truly try to analyze the voting process,” Hamilton said.
Early next year, council members will review the state election code and board rules. They’ll then start looking for ways to strengthen the language, focusing primarily on saving money while increasing efficiency.
Hamilton has formed some ideas, including possibly scaling back the 45 days of early voting, a staple in one of the bills he’s authoring.
“I currently already have a piece of legislation drafted that I’m tweaking that deals with ... trying to bring the 45-day time period to something that’s a little more realistic,” he said.
“Absentee voting will remain at 45 days ... but we’ve got some counties in this state that only have several thousand residents and so it really can become silly or absurd to have those polls open for 45 days.”
Forsyth has held six elections this year: a special election in May; the July primary; the General Election on Nov. 2; and one runoff for each of the three. In total, the county spent about $350,000 on elections this year.
The July primary cost $125,000, largely due to printing separate ballots for Democrats and Republicans.
“The runoff cost has certainly gotten everybody’s attention and especially in this down economy when budgets are being strained as bad as they are, I think it has really brought all this to the forefront,” Hamilton said. “We want to do this in a way that certainly won’t disenfranchise anyone.”
After the legislative session, Hamilton said the council will tour the state, asking residents and officials for suggestions on how to hold more efficient elections. He hopes the county will be among the stops.
“Forsyth County continues to be a model for the way to run elections very efficiently, and I would certainly like to think the council would like to hear not only from our elections officials but from our residents here about what works and what doesn’t work,” Hamilton said.
Based on the information gathered, the council will make recommendations for possible election changes in 2012.