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Working group meets to assess 2020 election cycle in DeKalb

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Working group meets to assess 2020 election cycle in DeKalb

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: A long line of voters gathered outside the Voter Registration and Elections Office on Oct. 12, the first day of early voting in the Nov. 3 elections. Photo by Dean Hesse

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — A survey of DeKalb County employees found a lack of planning and poor communication during the last election cycle.

Feedback from more than 120 county employees, who either volunteered or were assigned to help with the 2020 election cycle, as well as employees, managers and directors show DeKalb County Elections department was understaffed and lacking resources to meet the increase in voter turnout.

Consultant Deborah Covin Wilson presented findings that DeKalb County government provided substantial resources to supplement the Elections staff to ensure a safe and credible election process without major problems.

Employees said:

– Pandemic protocols and unprecedented voter turnout created challenges in implementation of standard operating procedures.

– Unclear communication of policies resulted in duplicated efforts in areas, including PPE distribution.

– Lack of cross-planning in departments resulted in lack of understanding of processes of each department.

– Roles, responsibilities and policies were not communicated to departments assisting the elections department.

Wilson presented the after-action report to the reinstated working group,the  DeKalb Community Elections Committee. The group met for the first time on Sept. 15, led by DeKalb County Commissioners Ted Terry, Mereda Davis Johnson and Lorraine Cochran Johnson.

“I think in order to have an understanding of what the needs will be in future elections, there needs to be a deeper level assessment,” said DeKalb County COO Zach Williams.

Members of the working group include representatives from DeKalb County Elections board, DeKalb Democratic Party, DeKalb GOP and DeKalb Municipal Association. The group plans to meet quarterly.

Terry said his trip with Elections board chair Dele Lowman Smith to Orange County, Calif. in March served as an example of an efficient elections department 20 years in the making. Orange County has 1.4 million voters as the 4th largest jurisdiction in the country.

Orange County committed to an intergovernmental effort to support elections and is now one of the most well-run elections outfits in the county. Elections in the 21st century are only getting more complicated, Terry said.

DeKalb County Elections Board Vice Chair Nancy Jester said her group is committed to looking at the operations and budget of the elections department.

“We’re all of the same mindset that what we do is fundamental to our republic’s democracy,” said Twyla Hart, interim elections director. “We’re here to service the voters of DeKalb County. That is our client. We are striving to give the best customer service possible.”

Hart said she expects a successful municipal election on Nov. 2.

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