Exclusive: Departing Fulton election director blasts lawmakers for playing “Old South” politics

AtlantaCivicCircle

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Fulton County elections director Rick BarronAtlanta Civic Circle

Rick Barron is leaving the building – but not before he gets a few things off of his chest.

After nine years heading Georgia’s largest elections operation, Barron has weathered enough criticism, controversy, and procedural changes to give him a full, unvarnished understanding of the political landscape.

He’s seen the future, and he’s had enough. Barron’s last day as the Fulton County Director of Registration & Elections is April 1.

“I just don’t want to put up with this hyper-partisan atmosphere,” the 55-year-old told Atlanta Civic Circle, insisting that his departure was his decision – not his bosses’.

Allegations of long lines and mismanagement have dogged Fulton election officials for years. The claims escalated during the 2020 elections to false allegations of vote fraud by county elections staff.

Last August, Georgia’s State Election Board appointed a bipartisan performance review panel to investigate potential election law violations by Fulton officials – a move that, under the controversial Georgia Election Integrity Act (SB 202) enacted last year, could lead to the takeover of the Fulton elections office. SB 202 allows the State Election Board to take control of county election offices deemed poorly performing. The panel reviewing Fulton’s elections operations is expected to release its findings any day now.

“It just causes too much stress, and the money isn’t worth it,” Barron said.” I used to be able to leave it at work – and it got to the point where I wasn’t leaving it at work anymore.”

After Georgia’s acrimonious 2020 election, the scrutiny, public harassment, and threat of a state takeover have all taken their toll on Barron’s mostly Black staff. Barron, who oversees a staff of 45, said more workers left in 2021 than in his previous eight years combined.

Here’s what Barron had to say about the upcoming election season, election reform, politics – and the safety of election workers. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Atlanta Civic Circle.

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