Proposal would shake up Columbia County elections board

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how the members of the Elections Board were chosen.



Now that a new elections director has been hired, a Columbia County lawmaker wants to put a new elections board in place.

However, the chairman of the board says it’s a ploy to inject politics into the group.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said he plans to file legislation to change the way members of Columbia County’s Board of Elections are chosen and increase the number of members.

“We’re no longer a county of 60,000 when that thing was probably put together,” he said. “We’re 125,000 people. We’ve never had any trouble there. We’ve had a lot of stability, which I attribute to Debbie.”

Deborah Marshall, the board’s former executive director, retired in December when she was unable to return after surgery in April for a malignant brain tumor. She
had been director since 2000.
The three-member board recently promoted Nancy Gay, a former registration coordinator, to succeed her.

News of the legislation came as a surprise to Larry Long, the board’s chairman.

“There’s no basis for that at all,” said Long, who discussed the proposal with board members Neal John­son and Ann Cushman, who also had not been notified.

All of them plan to ask lawmakers to oppose the change, Long said, because the proposal would impose more political control over a body that has stayed neutral since its structure was created in 1993.

The county’s Republican and Democratic parties each appoint one member to the board; those two then appoint the third.

Long is the Republican representative; Johnson is the Democratic representative. Cushman is the neutral appointee.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said he likes the idea of increasing the number of appointments, especially if it gives more say to officials
elected by voters rather than just party appointees.


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