Friday, June 3, 2022

DeKalb County certifies May 24 primary election results

DeKalb County election officials voted on Friday to certify the results of the May 24 primary election and deny any requests for recounts.

The 4-1 vote by the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Board dismissed any recount requests that had been made by any candidates or political parties. The board is not legally required to grant them.

The vote came after executive director Keisha Smith assured the board that ballots "have been accurately tabulated to the assigned candidates of their choice." 

"These results are accurate," Smith said.

"I am satisfied with the results of the hand-count tabulation as well as the outcome of the other races for the May 24 primary," said board member Susan Motter, who made the motion for certification.

Election officials said the withdrawal of Don Broussard as a Democratic primary candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 2 created problems in tabulating the results.

Results announced Thursday showed Michelle Long Spears received 6,651 votes in the District 2 election. Lauren Alexander received 4,737 votes, Marshall Orson received 3,928 votes, and Donald Broussard, who withdrew, received 133 votes.

Several board members noted that Georgia's new voting law, SB202, shortened the time that local election officials have to certify a vote from 10 days to six days. The board voted on May 31 to postpone certification of the election results.

Vice Chair Nancy Jester said the board was legally required to certify the election or face penalties or other action by the state. 

"Broussard's name should not have been on the ballot," board member Karli Swift said. "We do not control the programming of the touch screens and the scanners."

Broussard, in a public comment during the meeting before the vote was taken, said it was "troubling to see this unfold." He urged the county to have a rerun of the election with the three remaining candidates. 

"My withdrawal should not have created the train wreck that has happened," he said. "This has damaged this District 2 race. It's not what I wanted." 

"There's blame to go around," Broussard said. The Georgia Secretary of State's office created errors in the election, he said, adding that the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners changed commission boundaries "to allow one of the candidates to be in the district." 

Anthony Lewis, who was the lone board vote against certification, said he had not seen audits of the election results. Chair Dele Lowman Smith said it was inaccurate to refer to the county's review as an "audit."

"What has been called an audit, it's actually the normal review that the staff undertakes as a part of the elections process, both before and after certification," Lowman Smith said. She said it was unfortunate that some people had been distributing inaccurate election result numbers.

"The irregularities we saw in the race were directly related to programming changes that were made to the District 2 commission Democratic primary. The reason we feel confident that that was related only to that race is because of the follow-up reviews and reconciliations," she said.

A large number of candidates and activists spoke during the public comment section of the special-called meeting, including unsuccessful Stonecrest mayoral candidate Diane Adoma, who claimed unspecified irregularities. Andrew Bell, a candidate for the District 3 seat on the DeKalb County Commission, said he wanted a recount "not necessarily because I feel like I won, but because I don't know if I won or I lost."

Other public comments came from Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Colorado-based Coalition for Good Governance, who proposed a manual discretionary recount for candidates "who feel their races are under a cloud." Her 501(c)(3)'s 2019 tax return shows $387,003 in gross receipts, about 95 percent of which came from contributions and grants.

Also speaking was Garland Favorito of Roswell, who filed an unsuccessful challenge last year alleging counterfeit or suspicious ballots were "injected" into Fulton County's presidential election results.

On Thursday, District 2 county commission candidate Marshall Orson asked the board not to certify the results. "There have been multiple errors in this process," he said during the meeting on Friday.

"The key thing for us is that we need to have confidence in our election system that every vote is being counted properly and accurately," NAACP DeKalb chairman Lance Hammonds said, noting that his organization has been active in registering people to vote.