Georgia state Republicans have inched toward a possible takeover of elections in Fulton County after laying the groundwork for a process that could give the state GOP more power over elections in a county overwhelmingly Democratic.
Two dozen senators in the GOP-controlled General Assembly called for a performance review of Fulton County elections chief Richard Barron in a letter submitted Tuesday by state Sen. Butch Miller, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported.
“We do so as a measure of last resort, having failed to adequately assuage the concern that we, as elected officials, have regarding the integrity of the Fulton County elections process,” Miller wrote, according to a copy of the letter published by the Journal-Constitution.
Lawmakers called for the review over what they said was a failure after the November 2020 vote to properly perform risk-limiting audits. Risk-limiting audits are a postelection process that checks if equipment and procedures worked accurately to yield the correct outcome.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden received 72.65% of the votes cast in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, in the November election. Then-President Donald Trump carried 26.16% of the vote.
Biden won Georgia, marking the first time in 20 years that a Democrat had won the typically red state. Georgia has since been the subject of ongoing election controversy fueled by Trump’s repeated false claims of massive voter fraud.
Republicans ordered three audits of the November election, none of which found any evidence of such fraud.
While the November vote and a January runoff for two U.S. Senate seats ran smoothly in Fulton County, the region is haunted by a history of poorly run elections. It had a disastrous primary in June 2020, when malfunctioning voting machines caused enormous delays and long lines to vote.
The performance review process for local election officials is a new component of Georgia elections after state Republicans passed a sweeping law in late March that will dramatically limit voting access in the state. It included measures that paved the way for legislators to influence election management, including one that allows for the replacement of county election board members by the state legislature.
Democrats and voting rights experts have raised concerns that Republicans are trying to affect election outcomes by attempting a partisan takeover of election administration.
“After giving themselves unprecedented power under Senate Bill 202, Republicans wasted no time in waging an anti-democratic, partisan power grab, attempting to seize control of elections in Georgia’s largest county, home to the greatest number of voters of color in the state,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, the chief executive of Fair Fight Action, a Democratic voting rights group, told The New York Times.
The Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and members of the Fulton County House delegation have expressed support for the review.