Fulton County leaders reject election board nominee who challenged voters' eligibility

Voters cast their vote in Georgia's runoff election for U.S. Senate on December 6, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Elected leaders in Georgia’s most populous county — a Democratic stronghold — on Wednesday rejected a Republican nominee for the county elections board who had challenged the eligibility of thousands of voters.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to reject Jason Frazier, one of two nominees put forth by the county Republican Party for a seat on the county Board of Registration and Elections. The commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the appointment of the other Republican nominee, Mike Heekin, as well as the reappointment of two Democratic nominees, Teresa Smith Crawford and Aaron Johnson, for two-year terms that begin July 1.

Fulton County has a history of election problems, including long lines to vote and delays in reporting results. After a particularly troubled primary in 2020, an independent monitor was appointed to observe the general election that year as part of a consent agreement between the county and the State Election Board. The monitor said the county’s elections were badly managed but he found no evidence of fraud.

Republican lawmakers used a sweeping election law passed in 2021 to appoint a review panel to determine whether the state should take over Fulton County’s elections. That panel submitted its final report to the State Election Board in January, citing improvement and recommending against a state takeover. The state board has yet to take action on that recommendation.

Former President Donald Trump focused on Fulton County after he narrowly lost Georgia to Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 general election. He made unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud in the county.

Before their vote Wednesday, the county commissioners heard from a few dozen members of the public, most of whom spoke in favor of Frazier. But voting rights groups have raised concerns about his use of Georgia law to challenge the eligibility of thousands of Fulton County voters, saying he challenged many legitimate voters.

“Baseless challenges make it harder for voters to register to vote, cast their ballots, and have their ballots counted — while further burdening election workers and overwhelming our elections system,” said Maya Castillo, director of voter protection for Fair Fight, a group started by two-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Republican Commissioner Bridget Thorne spoke in favor of Frazier, saying he had been doing work the county had failed to do to clean up the voter rolls. Thorne slammed Democrats for rejecting the Republican Party’s selection of someone who she said is undeniably qualified. When it came time to vote on the Democratic nominees, she questioned their qualifications but said she was voting to approve them because the Democratic Party had the right to have its nominees on the board.

Frazier’s rejection came three weeks after drama erupted over the selection of the chair of the five-person election board, who is appointed by the commissioners. Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts had originally nominated former commissioner Lee Morris to be chair. That would have resulted in a Republican majority on the election board in the heavily Democratic county. After an outcry from Democrats and voting rights groups, Morris withdrew his name. Pitts then nominated lawyer Patrise Perkins-Hooker, whose nomination was approved.