Fulton County Elections Director Remains in Job After Vote

February 18, 2021 Updated: February 18, 2021

Commissioners in Georgia’s largest county deadlocked on Feb. 17 in a vote to remove its elections director, allowing him to remain in his job for now.

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections voted a day earlier to remove Director Richard Barron, and sent its recommendation to remove Barron from the Board of Commissioners.

The seven-person board voted 3–3, with Commissioner Natalie Hall abstaining, on whether to accept the recommendation, so the motion failed.

Commission Chair Robb Pitts told WSB-TV, “We need to get an opinion from the county attorney as to whether it’s properly before us or not, but the bottom line though right now is Mr. Barron is still the director.”

Every other county in the state relies on its elections board to make decisions on officials, but Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, requires the commissioners to approve recommendations from the board.

Election board members who voted to remove Barron cited a slew of errors and improper procedures that popped up during elections in recent years.

“There were no chain of custody forms being used as ballots moved from room to room, mass optional policy putting essential staff at unnecessary risk, no process to sufficiently protect spoiled and rejected ballots in the mailroom, using an outdated version of easy vote to check in voters, poor record-keeping for election net, persistent chain of custody issues, ballots that were being delivered to State Farm Arena in unsecured mail carts, which the monitor noted was very concerning, technology issues abounding during the recount, the server crashing on Nov. 29,” said Dr. Kathleen Ruth, a Republican member, recounting issues that a monitor uncovered in a review of the most recent elections.

Others defended Barron, including Aaron Johnson, a Democrat.

Fulton County
Name tags sit at the entrance of the sorting room where election workers process absentee ballots, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, on Nov. 2, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

“Resoundingly it was, yes, things were bad, but we need to give him … he made up for it … and give him an option to stay, or at least give the next board the option of making this decision that we’re putting on down,” Johnson said.

Commissioners on Feb. 17 questioned whether the elections board should decide on who directs elections.

“Because it did not go their way, all of a sudden we’re on a slippery slope. Well, that’s why we have the county attorney for,” Commissioner Khadija Abdur-Rahman said, WSB-TV reported.

Abdur-Rahman, Pitts, and Marvin Arrington Jr., all Democrats, voted to keep Barron. Liz Hausmann, Bob Ellis, and Lee Morris, all Republicans, voted to approve the elections board’s recommendation.

“They’ve stated publicly various reasons why they think change is necessary,” Ellis said during the meeting, before the vote. “Things have emanated out of a consent decree that the county is under, the monitoring report that’s come back from the monitors about the performance, things they’ve observed, they talk about health and safety issues, chain of control, custody issues.”

Hall, a Democrat, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The board is expected to take up the matter again at its next meeting on March 3.

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