Dear Editor: I want to start by saying I have appreciated The Herald’s coverage of the Jackson County Elections Board over the last year. There were personnel actions take in the wake of Mr. Beck’s death I obviously disagreed with and the move to the five-member board was another huge change in the structure of what had been a stable group for a long time.
There were a couple BOE mentions in last weeks paper that I feel led to comment on, especially since an online post I made was distributed out to the board.
The new elections board is just that – a new board. The previous board was all appointed and I feel in those cases the members should have, and were, held to a standard that did not betray any overt partisanship.
As Jackson County's Democratic Party chairman, I did not know the leanings of any of the individuals and had no contact with them and that was fine as long as my counterpart did not either.
I also was opposed to moving to a five-member, partisan appointed board after seeing and hearing the stories out of Hall County, where I believe the model is based. Why the move was proposed? You’ll have to ask Rep. Tommy Benton. It took his actions in the Georgia House to make it happen and other than "to be more in line with other counties," that’s the only rationale I’ve received.
That said, it is now a five-member, partisan appointed board. These appointed members should not give up their rights as citizens, especially when they have a significant history in the area where their voice is important.
When Mrs. Denny spoke at the Hoschton City Council meeting denouncing the mayor and the silence of council member Mindi Kiewert, she announced herself as a former mayor. She wasn’t wearing her BOE hat and seemed to take pains to not do that.
This is in line with the actions of our neighboring counties when personal affiliations and official duties collide. I know my Democratic Chairman counterpart in Hall County was a sitting board of elections official there at the same time (now resigned) and has recounted to me several instances where he literally covered any Democrat paraphernalia before answering elections questions.
So we expect a party partisan appointee to be privately supportive of one group of candidates and unsupportive of another. We also expect our appointees to put that aside when doing official duties.
My party appointed people we felt could do this task. I have seen no signs Republican Party chairman Ron Johnson did anything different (and let's keep in mind, Mrs. Denney was his appointee, not mine.)
BOE Chair Eric Crawford would be the only person in this group I would expect to be a mystery to all and so far in the short time of his chairmanship, I’ve only heard he has been fair and reasonable.
I did not choose this game, I did not set these rules, but if we’re looking for precedent, we can’t look at the prior county board of elections anymore.
Chairman, Jackson County Democratic Party