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.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Diane Wag­ner DWag­ner@RN-T.com

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.

/ Diane Wag­ner

(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.

/ Diane Wag­ner

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.

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