Elections board says it’s ready for Nov. 6
A number of residents voice concerns about legislation putting the appointed board in charge over a hired professional.
Floyd County Elections Board Chairman Steve Miller reassured a crowd of concerned citizens Monday that the departure of Elections Supervisor Willie Green has not affected preparations for the Nov. 6 election.
“Thus far, it has been business as usual,” Miller told the 30 or so people attending the board’s monthly meeting.
Advance voting is on track to start next week in two locations, the County Administration Building and Garden Lakes Baptist Church. A third location will open Oct. 24 at the Rome Civic Center. About 600 absentee ballots have already been mailed by request, and 200 have been returned. And last week the board conducted required state training for 136 poll workers.
The three-member citizen board, which includes Mardi Haynes-Jackson and Tom Rees, has an interview scheduled Friday with a potential replacement, although the new title will be chief clerk. Other candidates are undergoing background checks.
Meanwhile, longtime elections technicians Vanessa Waddell and Donna Maldonado are sharing the title of interim chief clerk and board members have increased their assistance, Miller said. Jackson’s been on the board for 11 years, with more than 25 elections under her belt. Miller and Rees have each worked between six and 10.
“Each and every board member has been trained and is fully qualified to conduct elections in Floyd County,” Miller said, noting that Green had never run an election before when he was hired in October 2015.
“Without the assistance of staff and the board, it would have been impossible for him to conduct any election,” he added.
Several residents spoke, including at least two who said one of the technicians should have been immediately promoted when Green left Aug. 24.
“Especially with the timeframe of the elections being so close,” said Sam Malone, president of the Rome-Floyd County NAACP chapter. “That would have eliminated the learning curve.”
Malone, and most of the others, made it clear they did not question the election integrity — but they said they wanted the accountability that comes with a professional rather than an appointed board at the helm. Louella Hobgood, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Rome-Floyd County, questioned “the wisdom of downgrading the position” from elections supervisor to chief clerk.
“It seems like a false economy,” Hobgood said. “The cost of defending a lawsuit would more than make up the difference for a competitive wage for that position.”
The position is being advertised with a salary of between $16.22 and $17.88 an hour. At 40 hours a week, the annual pay would range from $33,737 to $37,190. Green’s starting salary was $36,091.
Miller said the change in title is meant to reflect the department structure, with the board chairman as its director. County Attorney Wade Hoyt said local legislation passed in 1986 by the Georgia General Assembly created the board as an apolitical body to supervise elections.
“It also allowed them to hire a supervisor, but they aren’t required to. They could handle it themselves. It just worked out that they chose to hire a supervisor in the past,” Hoyt said.
(From left) Floyd County Elections Board member Tom Rees, chairman Steve Miller and member Mardi Haynes-Jackson are briefed by County Attorney Wade Hoyt before the start of a meeting that drew about 30 people to the County Administration Building commission chambers Monday.
Louella Hobgood (left), an officer of the League of Women Voters of Rome-Floyd County, signs up to speak on Monday before the meeting of the Floyd County Elections Board, which includes member Tom Rees and chairman Steve Miller.