Macon-Bibb Board of Elections chairman approves GOP-led audit, as Water Authority special election slated for November
MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb Board of Elections Democratic Rep. Darius Maynard could not keep quiet during public comments at the end of Thursday’s board meeting.
Bibb County Republican Party Chairman David Sumrall praised Middle Georgia State University poll workers, but made a request to the board.
“None of the team members look like me,” Sumrall, who is white, said of the poll workers. “I keep hearing about diversity, inclusion and the importance of eliminating voter suppression, and we will work together as neighbors. So I doubt we had any Republicans on this great team. If we had, they would have had the chance to work with the right people there at Hazard 3.”
At the end of Sumrall’s remarks, Maynard asked, “You’re saying no one on the team looks like you?”
“Of course,” Sumrall replied.
Board of Elections Chairman Mike Kaplan said, “Okay, no comments, okay? »
But Maynard continued: “So you’re assuming that based on race you identify which party a person belongs to?”
“I say I couldn’t relate to…” Sumrall said before Maynard cut him off.
“Based on race,” Maynard replied.
“I couldn’t identify…” Sumrall continued before Maynard repeated, “Based on race.”
Kaplan again attempted to end the trade.
“I just wanted to be clear,” Maynard replied to the president.
“He made himself very clear. He doesn’t need any help,” Kaplan said.
The hybrid in-person and Zoom meeting was marred by audio issues and an abrupt end to the conference call 50 minutes into the meeting. Online participants re-registered and the meeting continued.
Several local GOP representatives were in attendance as the council considered a request from the local party’s Election Integrity Chairman to conduct an audit of the manual tally of three Bibb County precincts in the Georgia Secretary of State primary more early this year.
Kaplan assumed the rationale was to verify that Republican Brad Raffensperger won the primary without any election tampering. He mentioned the group VoterGA, which is calling for a full audit of the 2020 election in all 159 counties in the state.
“VoterGA thinks Brad won and there’s no way he could have won without something going wrong. Period. I disagree with that. Not at all,” Kaplan said. “And if I’m doing this (audit), it’s not because of that. It’s because we have to restore your trust. Period. Because it comes down to the end of the road for a lot of people, those of we who are tired of talking again and again about this mistrust.
Kaplan, who calls himself a “very big independent”, said he was fed up with accusations from both sides. As an example, he went on to point out that Democrat Stacey Abrams did not give in to then-Secretary of State and Republican nominee Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race.
The political intensity of recent years was a factor in the retirement of Supervisor Jeanetta Watson earlier this year. The council’s executive assistant, Charlene Maynard, will also leave next week after serving about 20 years, Kaplan said. The search for a new supervisor has become bogged down in a legal battle with the board and Mayor Lester Miller over who has the authority to choose a candidate for endorsement. Sumrall also later urged the board to drop the challenge of Miller’s plan to form a selection committee of board members and county commissioners.
The GOP leader encouraged the council to stay focused on the upcoming election and vowed to challenge any signs of Democratic partisanship in the process.
After the board discussed staffing issues for the audit, acting supervisor Tom Gillon said the hand count could be completed within days.
“Let’s get it over with,” Kaplan said. “If we counted, everything is perfect, are we finished? Are you all going to be happy and quit? I do not know.”
The board voted 3-1 in favor of the audit, with Maynard voting no. The other Democratic representative Karen Evans-Daniel was not present.
During public comments at the end of the meeting, Election Integrity Chairman Bibb GOP explained the rationale for auditing the Howard 1, Hazard 4, and Warrior 1 precincts.
“To ensure integrity within a race since the Secretary of State ran his own race. It probably should have been done in 2018 as well…” Amanda Prettyman said before being cut off mid-sentence.
“No, no, no,” Maynard said.
Macon-Bibb Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who was on the Zoom call, also chimed in: “Mr. President, this is totally inappropriate.
Kaplan berated Lucas for speaking when she was unrecognized, and Prettyman continued.
“The other reason is that the Halderman report on Dominion machines identified nine vulnerabilities that are truly failures, and we want to make sure the count is accurate,” she said.
Prettyman, who also spoke at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, mentioned Judge Amy Totenberg’s October ruling that QR codes used by machines to tally votes violate Georgia law. Although voters can read the printout indicating the candidates they have selected, the QR code remains a mystery.
“So the voter cannot verify what their ballot says with what the machine reads. And so, we are concerned about that,” Prettyman said. “There is no confidence in the machines at the moment and that is why we asked for it. And come November, if the Democrats don’t trust him, I will also fully support their demand for a manual count.
Former congressional candidate, Democrat Lindsay Holliday, also expressed concerns about the codes.
“I’ve been wary of computer meters since 2001,” Holliday said. “I wish they would print plain English. Sure, computers can read plain English, so we don’t need a QR code.”
The audit of the manual count of the three constituencies should be completed by September 1
MWA Special Election and feel the heat
The board of elections also set the date for the Macon Water Authority District 2 special election to replace Desmond D. Brown, who left office this year to run an unsuccessful bid for president of the MWA.
Qualifiers are scheduled to take place August 1-3, with elections falling on November 8.
When Kaplan asked if the council was charging the authority for the cost, Gillon replied, “Because this is part of the general election in November, there shouldn’t be any additional cost.”
The council also heard that the Boys & Girls Club compound on Shurling Drive has no air conditioning or heating and is seeking $35,000 for a new HVAC system.
Kaplan noted that the board doesn’t have that kind of money and asked Macon-Bibb Commissioner Valerie Wynn, who was attending the meeting with GOP officials, to check with the county or school system to find out. air-condition the installation.
Commissioner Lucas then berated the board that they had to see about it themselves.
“As a board, you don’t need to let this hang around,” she said. “November is just around the corner.”
The council is also looking for a new place to store voting materials, which have increased significantly with the new electronic voting system. The current location in the former Macy’s store in the Macon Mall is not air conditioned and the staff are sweltering in the heat.
“We need to find a way to secure these machines in an environment that isn’t 100 degrees,” Kaplan said.
The council also acknowledged a mail-in ballot snafu from the 2020 primary runoff where a voter failed to have a ballot sent to a temporary address, as requested, and was unable to vote.
“It was a mistake and we admitted it,” said council attorney William Noland.
The case has been referred to the Attorney General and council will be reprimanded and fined $500.
“Obviously it’s a relatively minor penalty because it was a relatively minor infraction,” Noland said.
A formal reprimand will be read at the State Board of Elections, but no one from Bibb County is required to attend.
“It’s a minor, minor infraction. Because that person couldn’t vote, that’s a bad offence,” Kaplan said.
Noland also plans to file a motion on behalf of Bibb County to dismiss a challenge calling for a statewide audit of the 2020 election.
During public comments, Carlos Jackson, who was in attendance, asked why Bibb wouldn’t want to participate in a statewide audit.
“I want to make sure all voters in Bibb County are heard because there’s a lot of distrust in these machines that we’re using and not being able to audit those votes is a problem,” Jackson said.
Lucas also wasn’t thrilled that some of the comments were hard to hear when the speakers were away from the microphone.
“I’m afraid it looks like there are some of these ugly things that we’re trying to avoid that are slowly creeping into Macon-Bibb County,” Lucas said. “It bothers me that someone thinks you can tell party affiliation by looking at the person’s race.”
Kaplan apologized for the technical issues and pledged to have state-of-the-art facilities for Zoom meetings once the office moves to the Macon Mall early next year.
– Senior Civic Journalism Researcher Liz Fabian covers government entities in Macon-Bibb County and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.