The Camden County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night to combine the Camden County Board of Elections with the local office of Voter Registration.
Currently, the two offices operate separately through the Probate office and the and Board of Registrars which are appointed by a local Grand Jury. The new legislation would combine the functions which oversee local elections. Camden County is one of the 37 counties left in the state of Georgia that still operate both offices separately for local election oversight.
The cities of Kingsland, St. Marys, and Woodbine, along with the County, have passed resolutions supporting the merger. Georgia law, OCGA 21-2-45, allows for the creation of joint county-municipal boards of elections and boards of elections and registration. The County’s approved resolution will go to Atlanta to be approved by the local representatives.
Deputy County Manager, Shawn Boatright, lead the discussions on the creation of a joint county-municipal board to include the registrar. Boatright states “the combination will allow for greater oversight, efficiency, security for the voters and elections in Camden County.”
Boatright said at Tuesday’s public hearing, which was held before the regularly scheduled meeting, that Probate Judge Robert Sweat, who oversees the election voting machines and poll worker training, also is supportive of the new change.
“This really is a dying system, and most of your counties are going to this system and consolidating their Board of Elections. The end goal is to cut out any confusion that the voters may or may not have or whoever they are contacting. Whether it be the Board of Registrars or the Probate Office.” said Boatright. Instead, “they will have a one-stop-shop to go and get all of their questions answered on voting.”
Boatright stated to the commission that another goal of the legislation would be to create an elections supervisor that will be managed by the Board of Elections and Registration. The newly created Board will have five members. All three representatives, John Corbett, Jason Spencer, and William Ligon, have been contacted about the new legislation. Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) is expected to move the bill at the State Capitol in Atlanta.
County Chairman Jimmy Starline (R-St. Marys), stated “this was presented to us six or nine months ago by three different groups and they all three agreed. So, that was extremely unusual and very pleasant to deal with. As far as I am concerned, this is less than a formality tonight.”
Camden County citizen, Linda Victory, who is the chair of the local Democratic party, stated that she came before the commission months ago about this issue and thanked the County Commission for “bringing this to through fruition their work” and “it’s better for Camden County.”
Several months leading up to Tuesday’s vote, groups of citizens within Camden County associated with the Get-Out-the-Vote initiative, along with other factions within the community, have expressed interest in combining the two offices which aligns with most other counties in the state. The newly created Election Board will not be effective until January 1, 2019.
All local legislation sent to Atlanta must be filed and voted on by March 10th. However, the County is planning to submit the local legislation creating the new entity by Feb. 28th which is when both House and Senate trade legislation to vote on and send to the Governor for favorable passage.
Before the Jan. 1st effective date, the recruitment of a new board can begin and appointed by the Camden County Commissioners starting July 1, 2018. There will be five members making up of the newly appointed board. The current board members will stay in place until January 2019 once the local legislation becomes law.
Procedural and transitional meetings are to take place before the July 1, 2018 date to discuss how Board members will be appointed. Anyone who is interested in becoming part of the Election Board will have to apply, and notice will be placed in the local printed newspaper and also on the county’s website.