In the GOP’s action in Fulton County, the Democrats see the conditions for a grand scheme to take control of local election offices in the metropolitan Atlanta area that would give Republicans the power to challenge election results, withhold certifications and announce investigations in the counties, which received the most democratic votes. In other words, it would allow them to execute the parts of the Trump playbook that failed in 2020.
While the law only allows electoral boards in four counties to be dissolved at the same time, that would be more than enough to hold a statewide election if those counties were Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, and DeKalb – the four most populous counties in the state – where the bulk of the democratic vote in Georgia is concentrated.
“It’s hard to see that this isn’t just a cursory pre-takeover act,” said Erick Allen, a Democratic state representative and a candidate for lieutenant governor whose district is in Cobb County, north of Atlanta. “I don’t know anyone who thinks this won’t lead to what we think.”
Fulton and neighboring counties of Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb played a key role in making the long-standing red state one of the most competitive battlefields in the nation. In a state that hasn’t voted a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, these four counties put Joe Biden up a 625,000 vote lead over Donald Trump, enough to offset Trump’s rural performance in Georgia.
This coalition of black, Latin American, and Asian voters in the Atlanta metropolitan area also contributed to the success of Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, whose campaigns achieved historic turnout in the region in both the November general election and the January 2021 runoff .
“We hang over our heads thinking, ‘Big Brother’s Watching,'” said Jacquelyn Bettadapur, leader of the Cobb County Democratic Party. “If [Republicans] Don’t they like what they see, will they roll into town and do a performance review? “
Republicans have largely dismissed Democrats’ concerns as exaggerated. Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor, said his colleagues at the statehouse had not yet made plans to set up electoral review boards in the counties around Metro Atlanta.
“We will reach these districts in due course when appropriate, but we do not go after them” [them]”Said Miller, who helped promote the law. “No, quotation, hit list, remove quotation. We’re just trying to take care of business. “
The Fulton County’s review began after Republican lawmakers sent two letters to the state’s electoral committee last month citing long lines, administrative issues and the late distribution of postal ballot papers during the 2018 and 2020 elections.
It is true that there is a high bar for taking over the electoral board of a county. While the establishment of a review body requires little more than a letter to the state electoral committee from at least one representative and one senator representing a single district, the dissolution of a district electoral committee is arduous.
It requires the examination commission to determine and document a violation of the electoral law or several cases of misconduct in the last two election years before the state election committee decides whether or not to vote in favor of the dissolution of the district committee. The misconduct is defined as “demonstrable misconduct or gross negligence”.
However, the Democrats point to the partisan background of these efforts, stemming from Trump’s pressure on state election officials to “find” 12,000 non-existent votes in Fulton County in 2020. An independent election observer had already found no evidence of fraud in the county.
Finding Republicans to win a majority on Fulton County’s three-person electoral review body, they envision a troubling specter of white, Conservative electoral officials who will take over the district election boards in highly Democratic, racially diverse counties.
“All of these things combined could have a negative impact on minority voting in Fulton County,” said Rob Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County’s electoral committee. “And we’re the reason that Biden wins, Ossoff wins and Warnock wins.”
Nationwide, the Democrats are working together on a strategy to combat the law, since Activists vow to oppose this and raise funds to bring more lawsuits against it. In Congress, Warnock and Ossoff proposed a scaled-down version of the For the People Act that would provide stricter guidelines for the dissolution of district electoral boards.
Several opponents of the law have challenged it in court, although few complaints directly challenged the electoral committee’s provisions and cited it instead Voter ID requirements and Ballot box restrictionswho they say wrongly hinders low-income voters and people of color.
Other groups say they plan to challenge the takeover clause if Republicans use their leverage over the district boards to change the election results. To date, several organizations, including Fair Fight, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, have filed nearly a dozen lawsuits against state law. according to a tracker from the Brennan Center for Justice.
At the county level, text chains and phone conversations between party leaders have become more frequent in the past few weeks since the Fulton County’s review committee was formed.
Some wanted to know more about the make-up of the three-person review board of Fulton and his only Democrat, Stephen Day. Day chaired the Gwinnett County’s electoral committee during the 2018 midterm elections, in which Gwinnett’s disproportionate rejection of absentee votes made it the center of an election administration battle.
When contacted by email, Day declined to comment on this story, adding that all members of the electoral review panel have agreed not to discuss it publicly until the review is complete.
According to several district leaders, the main goal is to create a playbook on how to navigate a potential review panel in their district.
“Before that, it was a potential discussion. But now, of course, it is in practice, ”said Brenda Lopez-Romero, leader of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party.
All of these efforts might not be enough, however, as Republicans control both the state legislatures and the governorate, which has complete control over how the new provision is implemented.
“It feels like our hands are tied to what we can do,” said Bee Nguyen, a Democrat running for foreign ministerial. “I think every voter in Georgia state, when they cast their vote under the new rule, will see that it wasn’t as easy to vote as it used to be.”
The dire predictions also raise concerns about the impact on future turnout of blacks, Latinos and Asians if their votes are challenged in the districts where they are most concentrated.
“It literally aims at the sovereignty of the districts that hold their elections. And they target counties that are heavily black, ”Allen said.
It could “totally hurt” the Democrats’ chances in 2022, said Lewanna Heard-Tucker, leader of the Fulton County’s Democratic Party.
“If we win these places as expected, there will be no stopping us [from coming for other metro Atlanta counties] at this point. They’ll pull through every single stop, ”said Heard-Tucker. “They’re trying to make sure they maintain a lineage for a decade or more.”