There has been a lot of talk and media coverage regarding the special election to replace Commissioner Pota Coston due to her untimely death. Much of the talk and coverage has been incorrect with the exception of The Citizen newspaper. I would like to give the straight facts.
The Board of Elections has the duty according to the Georgia Election Code to call a special election as well as all elections and to administer those elections. Elections are a state matter and all counties follow the same procedures and adhere to the Georgia Election Code and directives from the Secretary of State and the State Election Board and their rules.
We are a quasi-state board. The county commissioners do not give us orders or any direction. In fact, the county commissioners are prohibited from interfering with anything that the Board of Elections does.
The Board of Elections was created by an act of the state legislature and fashioned so that no one entity has control. One member is appointed by the Republican Party, one by the Democratic Party and one by the Board of Commissioners. The chairman is elected from among the board members.
This board is sacrosanct and should be free from any political pressure. In this matter, we have received no direction or comments from the Board of Commissioners. It is patently false that the commissioners were “cowardly” and pushed the decision onto the Board of Elections in this matter. This is our duty alone.
At our July 14 meeting, we met to call the special election. Due to rumors and misinformation, many speakers had the impression that we had a choice to not follow the law. That is not the case.
As chairman of this board, I take my responsibilities very seriously. During my years on the board, we have not had any complaints or been called before the State Election Board or Department of Justice for any reason. I am very proud of that record and the wonderful, dedicated staff that we have in the Elections Office.
Our board is a working board and we have received many hours of training, as has the staff. We are sworn to conduct elections in a fair, impartial, and legal manner. When we are in the performance of our duties, we are non-partisan.
The county attorney, Dennis Davenport, gives advice and represents the Board of Elections whenever needed. At our meeting on July 14, Mr. Davenport went into great detail regarding what the board could or could not do in this particular case. The method of voting is involved in litigation, as most people know.
I was in attendance at the Board of Commissioners meeting on July 9. Many of the speakers were the same ones at our meeting and said basically the same thing. The theme was “do the right thing.”
We will do the right thing, which is following the law.
Marilyn Watts, chairman
Fayette County Board of Elections and Voter Registration