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Women take lead of elections board in DeKalb County

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Women take lead of elections board in DeKalb County

A sign directs voters to the Oakhurst Baptist Church polling location in Decatur on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor

DeKalb County, GA — Two women are leading the charge of the DeKalb County Elections Board. 

Dele Lowman Smith, a Democrat, was voted board chair and Nancy Jester, a Republican, was voted vice chair at the July 8 meeting. The board is comprised of four women and one man: Lowman Smith, Jester, Susan Motter, Karli Swift and Anthony Lewis. 

New board members, Swift and Jester, were sworn in on July 7. 

Lowman Smith is taking over the position from outgoing member Sam Tillman – a controversial, decades-long member of DeKalb County Elections Board. Entering her second term on the board, the new board chair has been vocal about voters’ rights, communication and transparency. 

Describing her first term as a “wild ride,” her goal is to revisit bylaws, last updated in early 2010s. 

“There should be a pretty clear distinction between board members and staff. And I think it is important to reaffirm what our role is as a collective body and how we provide oversight and support to the department, in addition to legal requirements …” said Lowman Smith.   

Vice chair Jester has been an elected official in DeKalb County for 10 years, first serving on the DeKalb County Board of Education and the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. 

Commissioner Ted Terry joined the meeting, pushing to finalize volunteers for the elections working group, a committee of appointed citizens and elected officials to study voter registration, election policies and procedures. The board nominated Swift and Jester to the working group

The mission of the working group states the committee will study and report on poll worker training, ballot printing, processing and tallying, voter communication and operations. Other members include DeKalb County Commissioners Mereda Davis Johnson, Ted Terry and Lorraine Cochran Johnson; two Democrats and two Republicans, nominated by their respective parties; and one member selected by the DeKalb County Municipal Association. 

Staff members from the elections department may be added. A final list has not been released.

In other news:

– Board members want to return to meeting in person, but DeKalb County meetings remain closed to the public due to COVID-19 protocols. 

– The Elections department has not scheduled a date for the remaining 229 challenge hearings. Elections Department Director Erica Hamilton said staff is working with the Secretary of State’s office and DeKalb County’s legal department. 

– Board members held executive session to discuss litigation. No votes were taken.

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