Atlanta, GA

New Georgia election laws, tense political climate push local elections into 'new and unprecedented territory'

Georgia's midterms are approaching.Britton Edwards, Atlanta Civic Circle

Georgia’s 159-county election administrators are heading into the midterm elections with deepening concerns over more restrictive legislative mandates, increased legal risks, fewer workers–and scarce resources.

Their heightened anxiety follows two tumultuous years for poll workers and local election offices, who had to contend with a global COVID-19 outbreak, verbal and physical harassment, and a deluge of recounts, fueled by debunked vote-fraud claims over the 2020 presidential election. 

Death threats and an aging pool of election workers had led to a mass exodus of election workers nationwide, and Georgia has been particularly affected.

The aftereffects of the state’s heavily contested 2020 election season, along with subsequent restrictive changes to Georgia election laws have made it much harder for local election offices to recruit poll workers, especially managers for polling locations. 

The problem has reached  “a crisis point” for Douglas County election officials, the county’s election supervisor, Milton Kidd, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “We’ve had almost a complete turnover in our poll workers because of individuals not wanting to be involved in the electoral process,” he said. “So we’re going into a midterm [election] year with, basically, a brand new election staff.”

Kidd said about a third of his office’s permanent staff of seven have quit, and about 300 of the usual 300 to 400 seasonal poll workers used during the last two election cycles are not returning for the midterms. Half of the poll managers he’s relied on in previous elections are also gone.

What’s more, a bill fast-tracking through the state legislative session threatens to make his and other election officials’ jobs even harder, Kidd said. 

If passed, HB 1464 would deputize the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as the first-responder for any allegations of election-related crime, empower the public to inspect paper ballots after elections and allow only the state election board, instead of counties, to accept private donations earmarked for election administration to distribute as it sees fit.

“All that has an effect on our poll worker recruitment and retention,” Kidd said. 

Atlanta Civic Circle.

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