CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Elections voted to approve its new bylaws this week following a long conversation with Rep. Pam Stephenson over possible changes to state law enacted to create the board.
By a 2-1 vote with Chairman and Democratic member Garvin Haynes voting against, the Elections Board enacted bylaws that will guide them in the near future until a resolution reached on the state law, or "enabling act," that Stephenson and other legislators representing Rockdale County are considering revising.
Haynes and local Democrats at Tuesday's Election Board meeting also insisted the third member of the board be referred to as "at large" rather than "nonpartisan" as the position is referred to in the bylaws.
The argument is that the position was never intended to be nonpartisan and they have accused Bond of being a Republican and thus giving that party an unfair advantage on the board.
The major sticking point is a "gridlock provision" in how the at-large member is selected. As had happened last year, neither the Republican or Democratic member could break a 1-1 deadlock on nominating the third, at large member. The process took five months and ended with at large member Cary Bond being selected by draw of poker chips from a hat.
Republican member Lynn Brown and Bond seek to have the chief judge of the Rockdale Judicial Circuit decide if the Elections Board fails to do so, after 60 days.
Although Haynes participated in the poker chip drawing that led to Bond joining the board, he has questioned Bond's qualifications and characterized him as siding with Brown.
Haynes argued that Bond would be allowed to remain on the board indefinitely as long as the Republican member allowed him to stay.
Stephenson explained to the board that the purpose of the legislators reviewing the enabling act is to clean up some discrepancies between the law and how the board has operated over the years. She said one point that could help would be to defer all board appointments to the county Board of Commissioners after 60 days.
She said that is consistent with similar laws pertaining to other county boards and member selection.
Currently, the Board of Commissioners can appoint partisan members if the local political parties fail to name a representative.
Brown and Bond each said the idea to go to the judge to break a deadlock was that the judge is nonpartisan and would be more likely not to consider politics in making a decision.
Haynes argued that having the BOC decide might be motivation enough to get the process done.
"If we do not do our job after 60 days, then the Board of Commissioners will do it for us," he said. "That means, we have to do our job, period."
Stephenson and other legislators attending the meeting said a new enabling act will not make it through the current General Assembly session. Stephenson said she hoped that the Rockdale Delegation and the Elections Board can work together to come up with a revision to the enabling act that works for everybody.
For now, the Elections Board will turn its attention to preparations for redistricting and to June 30 when the terms to all three members expire.
Haynes called on anyone interested in serving on the Elections Board as the at-large member to file an application with the county Elections Office or contact either the Republican or Democratic parties for the partisan seats.