More than ‘1,100 issues’ found

BY RAY LIGHTNER STAFF WRITER RAY@GRIFFINDAILYNEWS.COM
Jan 10, 2018
The questions about voters not in the right precincts are still being worked on.

Spalding County Elections Supervisor Marcia Ridley told the Board of Elections she is continuing to work with the city GIS (geographic information system) person, Brian Hayes, to update and correct the voter registrations. Ridley said she’s “banged up our information with what they have, and what started with 38 voters in the wrong district, has resulted in 1,100 issues, so far.

To correct it, she said, “we will have to go into redistricting and get permission from the state to reopen it. We’re gonna need staff. Time is of the essence — there’s a lot of work to done,” she said.

“It won’t effect the special election,” she said, which is countywide, “but it will effect the other, (which is by districts). It will be a major project.”

This audit is being done with the maps, is an update of the prior audit done without the maps, and done before she was hired, Ridley said. This update, she said, would not be done until the end of the month.

To help, the Spalding County Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday to hire two employees for the Elections Office. The board hired Carla Rupp as assistant election supervisor and hired a temporary employee as part-time.

The two employees replace the three full-time employees who resigned in November, citing discord in the elections office, and problems with Ridley. Since that time, Ridley was the lone full-time employee.

The vote, following the recommendation of Ridley was 4-0, with one Republican appointee missing from the five-member board. The Spalding County Republican Party has yet to make an appointment to replace Helen Grayson on the Board of Elections.

Grayson’s resignation was effective at the end of the year. According to Ridley, the party has 40 days to make an appointment.

Betty Bryant, who was elected chairman by the board on Tuesday, and had been vice chairman for Grayson, is the lone Republican. Bryant said she hopes the party will make a decision at its next meeting, saying “I feel like a little petunia in the onion patch.”

This new employees will be able to help Ridley staff the office and prepare to two upcoming elections — the special non-partisan election to choose a new clerk of courts, following the retirement, while suspended, of former clerk Marcia Norris; and the primary coming up in May.

The special election will be held March 20 with qualifying Feb. 22 to 24, ending at noon on the Feb. 24. The deadline to register to vote in the special election will be Feb. 19, Ridley said. The call for the election will be made Jan. 12.

Ridley said the cost of the special election was not budgeted. In a presentation to the board ,she said it would cost $17,170 and has requested that funding from County Manager William Wilson Jr.

The Spalding County Board of Commissioners set qualifying fees for both elections Monday night. For the clerk of courts, the qualifying fee is $1,894.94 based on 3 percent of the base salary of $63,164.60.

For the general primary in May and general election in November, the qualifying fees, based on 3 percent of salary, were set for the following elected offices:

• Spalding County County Commissioner, District 2 and District 5, $360 based on salary of $12,000; Griffin-Spalding County Board of Education, District 1, District 3 and District 5, $255.69 based on salary of $8,523; Griffin Judicial Superior Court Judge, $5,088.75 based on salary of $169,625; and Spalding County State Court Solicitor General, $4,113.14 based on salary of $137,104.65.

There was almost no discussion of discipline for Ridley at Tuesday’s meeting. Board Member Ballard Brooks asked Ridley if her probation period had been extended past the nine months, which is standard for any county employee. He also asked about “the pecking order” or chain of command, which was uncertain last month.

Ridley said she did not know. Board member Margaret Bentley stated “the bylaws state that we (the Board of Elections) are responsible.”

There was reportedly a ruling by the legislative counsel, at the request of State Representative David Knight’s office, that the Board of Elections, not the county manager, is responsible for hiring and staffing the elections office, but the board and Ridley claimed that they had not seen it.