Now that a new elections director has been hired, a Columbia County lawmaker wants to put a new elections board in place.
The chairman of the board, however, says it’s a ploy to inject politics into the group.
State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said he plans to file legislation to change the way members of Columbia County’s Board of Elections are chosen and increase the number of members.
“We’re no longer a county of 60,000 when that thing was probably put together. We’re 125,000 people. We’ve never had any trouble there. We’ve had a lot of stability, which I attribute to Debbie.”
Deborah Marshall, the board’s former executive director, retired in December when she was unable to return after surgery in April for a malignant brain tumor. She
had been director since 2000.
The three-member board recently promoted Nancy Gay, a former registration coordinator, to succeed her.
News of the legislation came as a surprise to Larry Long, the board’s chairman.
“There’s no basis for that at all,” said Long, who discussed the proposal with board members Neal Johnson and Ann Cushman, who also had not been notified.
Together, the board members Friday issue a statement opposing the change:
“In light of the manner this proposed change has come to our attention and it being put forth without any knowledge on our behalf; we feel it is in the best interest of the voters and the county as a whole that our local delegation not support such a change,” the emailed statement reads. “The Board of Elections has always been very diligent to ensure fair and impartial elections for all. We welcome the opportunity to speak with our legislators in regards to this issue if there have been concerns raised by the electorate of which we are unaware.”
Long said that he worries the proposal would impose more political control over a body that has stayed neutral since its structure was created in 1993.
The county’s Republican and Democratic parties each appoint one member to the board; those two then appoint the third.
Long is the Republican representative, Johnson is the Democratic representative, and Cushman is the neutral appointee.
Cross said he likes the idea of increasing the number of appointments, especially if it gives more say to officials elected by voters rather than just party appointees.