The elections office in Georgia’s predominantly Democratic Fulton County said on Monday that two employees had been dismissed for shredding voter registration papers, potentially adding fuel to a Republican-led probe of the agency that opponents accuse of being politically motivated.
The workers were fired from the Fulton County Board of Elections on Friday after other employees saw them shredding registration forms awaiting processing before local elections in November, according to county elections director Richard Barron.
According to the chairman of the Fulton County Commission, Robb Pitts, both the county district attorney and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state’s top elections official, have been ordered to launch investigations into the issue.
Raffensperger, however, was the one who first disclosed the accusations of destroyed registration papers, issuing a scathing press release asking that the Justice Department investigate the agency’s “incompetence and misconduct.” “After 20 years of proven failure in Fulton County elections, Georgians are weary of waiting for the next humiliating discovery,” he added.
His statement simply served to highlight the political ramifications of the document-shredding accusations, which would almost likely have been less burdensome in any other election office. Fulton County authorities did not specify how many forms were destroyed, but Raffensperger estimated that the total was about 300 in a county with 800,000 registered voters.
While the accusations of misconduct were made public on Friday, it remained unclear when the registration papers were destroyed.
Raffensperger, who gained national notoriety after refusing former President Donald J. Trump’s plea to “find” enough votes to reverse President Biden’s close victory in the state, faces a tough primary battle against a challenger backed by Trump next spring. Meanwhile, the Fulton County elections office has come under fire from Trump supporters who falsely allege that Biden’s victory in the state was fraudulent.
Some supporters are asking for a re-examination of the presidential vote in Fulton County, which encompasses a large portion of metropolitan Atlanta and where Biden received 73 percent of the vote. Georgia’s statewide vote has been tallied three times with no indication of fraud.
This spring, the Republican-dominated State Legislature passed legislation giving it effective control of the State Election Board and authorizing the board to examine lawmakers’ complaints about local election boards. Fulton County was swiftly chosen for an investigation that may ultimately replace the elections board with a temporary superintendent with broad authority to monitor the vote.
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Voting rights activists and Democrats throughout the state see the investigation as a preliminary step toward a pro-Trump takeover of voting equipment in the county most important to Democratic aspirations in future elections.
“I don’t think there’s another state in the union that has a State Election Board with the power to turn a nonpartisan elections office into a partisan arm of the secretary of state’s office,” Barron, the Fulton County elections director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The county’s electoral performance has been uneven. Long lineups marred primary votes last year, and county elections have long been a source of contention. A state-appointed monitor’s assessment stated that the elections were “sloppy,” but there was no proof of “dishonesty, fraud, or deliberate misconduct.”
Recent changes, such as updated training manuals and newly recruited election administrators, have been highlighted by the elections board as proof that it is responding to concerns. However, the revelation on Monday provides opponents with fresh fodder at a time when the upcoming November election for Atlanta’s mayor and City Council is being seen as a litmus test for the board’s competency.
“If you have two employees who are terminated by the elections director, that certainly prompts an investigation and analysis,” she said. “It’s critical that we get this right.”