Clayton County busy creating elections board

By Justin Reedy

Faced with a countywide special election Sept. 16, Clayton County leaders are moving forward with the formation of the county's new Board of Elections.

The state law creating the board has to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act to ensure it doesn't discriminate against minority voters. But the county can't afford to wait until that approval is issued n which could be later this month or next month n before starting work on the board.

"It's critical to get it formed with a special election in September," said Crandle Bray, chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

Each of the five commissioners gets to appoint a member of the elections board, and three of those spots have already been filled. Morrow resident George Sly was appointed by Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer, Riverdale resident Roberta Abdul-Salaam was appointed by Commissioner Virginia Gray, and Jonesboro resident Arthur Thompson was appointed by Commissioner Gerald Matthews. Bray and Commissioner Charley Griswell still have to choose their appointees.

The commission intends the elections board n which chooses a full-time elections director to run day-to-day operations n to be above party politics as much as possible.

"They've got a legal function to carry out," Bray said. "It needs to be as nonpartisan as possible. I'm not interested in putting political cronies in there. I want to put people on there who are interested in the political process and will act in the public's best interest."

The county is also working on creating the elections director position, which used to be carried out on a part-time basis by the probate court judge. But the county's population has grown so much that a part-time position isn't enough, according to recently retired Probate Judge Eugene Lawson, who pushed for the change earlier this year.

The new full-time post will be an appointed position selected by the Board of Elections, and pays a salary between $46,806 and $70,524, according to county Public Information Officer Suzanne Brown. The position will replace that of the chief registrar in the Voter Registration office.

The special election being held this fall will include a referendum on a proposed 1percent sales tax increase to fund road improvements and recreation facilities. It will also fill a vacancy on the county Board of Education and elect Lawson's successor since the probate judge retired earlier this month.