CONYERS -- The at-large member of the Board of Elections and Voter Registration remains a highly debated seat as present at-large member Cary Bond's term ends on June 30.
Fred Whitt, a longtime resident and former Elections Board member, said the process for choosing the at-large member has a historic precedent. During public comment time at Tuesday's Election Board meeting Whitt said the process of choosing Bond by drawing a poker chip from a hat and not having both parties agree on his appointment has created tension on the board, and returning to the previous way of choosing a member would help ease tensions.
Whitt was referring to the compromise made by Chairman Garvin Haynes, the Democratic member, and Lynn Brown, the Republican member, to break a deadlock on selecting an at-large member last year. They used pokers chips drawn from a hat representing each other's preferred candidate. Bond, Brown's choice, won the draw.
"The historical precedent, insisting both political parties must agree on the at-large member or they would step down as the at-large member, was the ethical glue that made the election board," Whitt said. "That ethical glue made the election board a truly functioning election board. Without that ethical glue, we would have a truly dysfunctional election board. We can now see the evidence from this current board."
The board reviewed a draft of the procedure for choosing the at-large member, raising some questions and concerns among board members.
The selection process for the board's at-large seat has remained in flux since Bond's selection because the board does not have a policy in place to break deadlocks between the two partisan members.
Each of the three members has accused the other of attempting to take over the Election Board. Also, Haynes has announced he would not support Bond to continue on as the at-large board member. Bond said he would apply for the seat, anyway, and handed his application in during May's board meeting.
Haynes said he had questions about the use of the term "majority vote" in the draft.
"A majority vote? There's some confusion," he said. "Is (Cynthia Welch, elections supervisor) talking about all three board members, or the two members appointed by their parties?"
Bond said he believed the term meant two-thirds of the current board members; however, Haynes asked that the term be clarified in the final version of the proposed procedure.
Haynes also raised questions about the deadlines for applications and the board recessing into executive session to discuss the at-large candidates' qualifications.
"To my knowledge there is no date," Haynes said concerning mention of a time for deadline applications.
He also stated using an executive session to discuss qualifications may not be the best use of an executive session.
"I believe there are certain things you need for executive session," Haynes said. "Member qualifications is not one of those things I am certain on. I have concerns about going into executive session to discuss whether a candidate is qualified."
Brown said though reviewing qualifications using an executive session has been done in the past, it did not mean it was proper procedure. She also stated questions and concerns about the proposed procedure should be handled by Welch.
Haynes stated it was his personal opinion that the process for choosing an at-large member should be transparent to the public.
"I just think we ought to have this as open of a process as possible," he said.
As part of this open process, Haynes stated at May's meeting that interviews of at-large candidates should be televised for public viewing, raising some concern among Rockdale residents.
"The public does not have a role in electing the at-large members," Rockdale resident Jenny Roper said. "I question the televising the interviews of candidates."
Roper stated she thought many potential candidates might be uncomfortable with the television interviews, and the pool of candidates would be severely narrowed.
Rockdale resident John Bickford stated he was also concerned about Haynes' statement that all at-large candidate interviews would be televised.
"As was stated, requiring the applicants of the at-large position to be interviewed is something that has to be required by all members," he said. "(Haynes) made an edict at the last meeting that it will happen, but I believe it has to be voted on by all three members of the board before it should be done."
Applications for the at-large board member will be accepted at the Board of Elections and Voter Registration office located at 1400 Parker Road, Lobby C. All Rockdale County residents who are also registered voters are eligible to apply. The at-large board member will be decided by Brown and Haynes.
The board also heard an update on the status of redistricting.
"We have begun reviewing the proposed plan to determine the number of voters that will be moved from one district to another," said Renee Phifer, assistant supervisor of elections. "Upon city council final approval, we will identify all voters that need to be moved."
There will be a town hall meeting to discuss redistricting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, at Merle Manders Conference Center, 111 Davis Drive in Stockbridge. The town hall meeting is hosted by members of the state House and Senate Joint Redistricting Committee.
There will be additional public hearings to discuss redistricting for the city of Conyers held by the City Council at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15.