After Threats And Pressure, Fulton County Voter Registration Chief Resigns

Former Fulton County voter registration chief Ralph Jones looks on as an election worker processes provisional ballot paperwork on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Atlanta.

Mike Stewart / AP

Fulton County’s voter registration chief, a fixture in the office beloved by many of his subordinates, has resigned following pressure and threats over his work during the 2020 election.

Ralph Jones worked for the Secretary of State, Georgia’s top election official, for two decades before he joined Fulton County in 2009.

“He was just a tremendous asset to the department and we will miss him, and he worked very hard and always had a smile on his face and did things — did his work with joy,” said Dr. Kathleen Ruth, vice-chair of the Fulton County Board of Elections and Registration, and a Republican appointee.

In July, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, called for Jones and his boss, Fulton County Election’s Director Rick Barron, to be fired.

“Fulton County’s continued failures have gone on long enough with no accountability,” Raffensperger said.

Jones and Barron did not respond to a request for comment.

Jones leaves the department after Republican state lawmakers began what could be a lengthy process to potentially take control of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections, which oversees the county’s elections and registration offices. Georgia’s new controversial election law, SB 202, makes the takeover possible.

Support for SB 202 was driven by former President Donald Trump’s disinformation campaign which often focused on Georgia and Fulton County. Trump and his allies, often given a platform by GOP state lawmakers in Georgia, falsely claimed Trump lost the election because Jones and other Fulton County workers engaged in illegal activity to support President Joe Biden.

Jones was targeted with violent threats and he reported strangers knocking on the door of the home where he and his family live. He oversaw Fulton County’s expanded mail-in ballot operation during the 2020 election cycle amidst a pandemic and intense scrutiny.

In April 2020, a crucial time for primary election preparations, Jones contracted COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized. The office was swamped with applications for mail-in ballots. Primary election day was a disaster, and many people who requested mail-in ballots never received them. The GOP-controlled state election board appointed an observer to embed in the Fulton County elections department.

While the loudest criticism of Jones was based on lies, the state election board observer said Jones was responsible for “poor managerial processes” during the November general election. But later, the observer noted those processes improved for the high-profile senate runoff in January 2021.

As Jones departs from the Fulton County elections department, he leaves behind a culture in the registration office that is focused on service and responsiveness to “customers,” or voters. Jones is known for spreading a mantra: “Err on the side of the voter.”