The Georgia Electoral Committee is reviewing Fulton County’s votes in preparation for a attainable takeover

The Republican-controlled Georgia state electoral body on Wednesday took a step towards a possible takeover of the Fulton County elections, the latest example of Republican efforts to exercise control over the administration of local elections.

Republicans across the country have argued that they need to restore confidence in the electoral process after former President Donald Trump tried to undo his defeat by insisting, without evidence, that the race was stolen by rampant fraud.

But those in favor of voting rights fear that the measures taken to correct non-existent fraud will be pushed and instead undermined the process by giving undue influence and control to partisan lawmakers.

In Georgia, the board of directors targeted Fulton County, which scored major victories for the Democratic Party in the 2020 election cycle and has long been a target for Republican lawmakers. An independent observer found no evidence of fraud or inappropriateness, but Republican lawmakers in the state nonetheless last month called for a re-examination of the county’s electoral processes.

And on Wednesday morning, the board voted to appoint three people to conduct a performance review of Fulton County. Members include Republican Ricky Kittle, chairman of the Catoosa County Electoral Committee; Democrat Stephen Day, Gwinnett County Electoral Committee member; and Ryan Germany, General Counsel to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

They conduct an investigation into equipment, registration, processes, and compliance with state laws. The entire process – from the first legislative motion to full adoption – could take nearly a year, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported.

Georgia is not the only one empowering state officials to control local elections. Arkansas has a similar law in place. Other states have tried to micromanage elections by dictating everything, where the polling stations are and how and when voters can request postal votes.

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“That’s the big concern – that it’s a self-fulfilling process that actually makes the Fulton County elections less trustworthy and less for the service of the electorate,” said Lawrence Norden, director of electoral reform at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University , the county takeover.

Proponents warn that partisan players in the roles of election administrator could undermine future competitions.

“The worst-case scenario that you’ve seen in some press reports is that state lawmakers could put someone in charge of the Fulton election who would refuse to even confirm the election results, who would put the Fulton ballots County would take off the count. “Said Jessica Marsden, an attorney with Protect Democracy, a non-partisan advocacy group founded by former Obama administration attorneys.

“The scenario that I think is a little more likely is that the legislature will use these new tools that it has given itself to delay the counting process and question the counting procedures.”

Protect Democracy, along with two other similar advocacy groups that opposed Republican electoral oversight efforts, the States United Democracy Center and Law Forward, said there are at least 216 bills that “politicize, criminalize, or disrupt” the election administration that will be considered year. Of these, 24 passed and others are still being tested, the groups said.

“These laws pave the way for an electoral crisis,” Marsden said. “I think this path leads through false accusations of fraud or mistakes in the electoral process.”

States, including Georgia, have banned election officials from accepting external funding after many – including in Fulton County – applied for grants last year to fund unexpected election administration expenses, such as PPE to protect election workers and to ensure the safety of the people Guarantee workers when Trump supporters threatened them.

New electoral laws in Kansas will prohibit the governor, state secretary and the courts from changing electoral policy without legislative action – even in emergencies, according to Protect Democracy analysis.

Several state lawmakers have also launched their own investigations into the 2020 election results at the district level. The Arizona State Senate this year hired outside auditors to examine more than 2 million ballots in Maricopa County in a controversial review that was widely condemned by electoral experts.

In Georgia, there was no question the Fulton County elections were having problems: in one of the first pandemic elections in June 2020, voters waited hours to cast their vote.

The county tried to avoid the problems in November, however, by using $ 10 million in grant funds to recruit staff and provide additional ballot boxes, among other things. Officials saw record turnouts and short lines – a marked improvement over the past.

But the district – and its employees – remain the subject of attacks.

One of the first requests from Georgia lawmakers to review Fulton County called Richard Barron, the electoral director, requesting a review of his work. However, Barron is a member of the Registration and Election Committee that the review is aimed at.

County registrar Ralph Jones resigned earlier this week. Barron, Jones, and many Fulton County officials have reported having been relentlessly harassed and threatened by members of the public for their work in the county elections.

“The allegations against election officials, the partisan criticism, the criminalization of the behavior of election officials into being viewed with suspicion, the efforts to take over electoral posts – all of this begins to turn election officials into just another partisan actor, another team Players – what they shouldn’t be, “said Norden, the suffrage attorney.

Barron said in an interview that the attacks were “disappointing”.

Barron said he had previously spoken to one of the Republican MPs who requested his county’s electoral reform review. He hoped this would make them work together.

“He said he was ready to work on laws to make things more efficient. I spoke to him several times on election night, and I think we exchanged a few emails after we made the appointment, ”recalls Barron. “I would say it was enthusiasm.”

Barron declined to appoint the senator for NBC News, but Fulton County Senator John Albers confirmed that he had spoken to Barron about meeting.

But after Trump began claiming widespread inconvenience and fraud in Georgia, and Fulton County in particular, Albers emailed Barron suggesting that the appointment be rescheduled.

The couple have not spoken since then.