Top candidate’s last-minute exit leaves Fulton election office without a director ahead of May primary
Georgia’s biggest election operation will not have a manager for the May 24 primary — in less than eight weeks — after the leading contender for office in Fulton County abruptly withdrew earlier this week.
The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections named Durham County, North Carolina Chief Electoral Officer Derek Bowens as the sole finalist for the job on March 28. He would have replaced Rick Barron, whose last day was April 1 – having served as Fulton’s chief electoral officer since 2013.
“It will take months” before a new manager can be hired, said Fulton Board of Elections chairwoman Cathy Woolard. Atlanta Civic Circle. With Bowens stepping down, the board will start the search again from scratch, she said, but declined to provide information on possible candidates.
Bowens’ withdrawal upends a five-month search for Barron’s successor after Fulton’s longtime chief electoral officer tendered his resignation on Nov. 3. Bowens did not respond to the call from Atlanta Civic Circle.
In an exclusive exit interview with Atlanta Civic Circle Released Thursday, Barron blasted Georgia’s acrimonious political climate, which he says has sparked partisan changes to state election laws that make it harder for election workers to do their jobs.
The Fulton Board of Elections must fill a position that faces national scrutiny and the threat of state takeover. “The fact that we’ve had at least six months of a State Election Board takeover threat, with no resolution, would make anyone concerned about the safety of an offer like this,” Woolard acknowledged.
“All I can say is that the State Election Board needs to come to the conclusion that if they want to take over, take over. If they don’t take over, it’s over,” she added.
The looming threat of a state takeover by Fulton’s Election Office was made possible by the sweeping electoral reform law, SB 202, which Georgia’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a year ago.
Woolard said the Fulton Board of Elections knew finding Barron’s successor “would be a challenge. The ongoing controversies that occur in the state around elections usually make things difficult.
Barron and his team have come under scrutiny for the 2020 election cycle, and even before that, plagued by long lines in the June primary, political misinformation about mail-in votes , harassment and threats of bodily harm.
Nadine Williams, who the Fulton Board of Elections named interim director in mid-March, will lead the 45-member office for the upcoming primaries in May and into the foreseeable future. Williams, who has more than a decade of experience in Fulton’s election office, was in the running for the job.
here is Atlanta Civic Circle November interview with Woolard on the nomination of the chairman of the Board of Elections for Georgia’s most policed county.