Gwinnett Election Board Chair Refuses To Resign After Intense Criticism

Voters in Gwinnett County wait in line to vote early for the November election. The chair of Gwinnett County’s Board of Elections has come under intense scrutiny after comments she made in support of changing election law.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

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The chair of Gwinnett County’s Board of Elections has come under intense scrutiny after comments she made in support of changing election law.

Alice O’Lenick was first quoted in the Gwinnett Daily Post as having said she is “like a dog after a bone” in her determination to get county and state election laws changed so that Republicans “at least have a shot at winning.” She made the statement during a Gwinnett County Republican Party meeting last week and defended her comments during a county election board meeting Tuesday.

A delegation of Gwinnett Democratic legislators, 15 members from both the House and Senate, signed a letter calling for O’Lenick’s resignation. Rep. Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, chair of the delegation, publicly shared the letter to his Twitter account Monday.

“Because of the irreparable harm your public statements and intended actions have on completing the duties of Chair of the Gwinnett Board of Elections – to maintain public confidence in conducting impartial elections – we the undersigned Gwinnett State Legislators demand your immediate resignation,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to O’Lenick.

The legislative delegation was joined in their call for O’Lenick’s resignation by 17 civil rights and voting rights organizations, including Fair Fight, founded by Stacey Abrams.

“O’Lenick isn’t even trying to hide her bias against Democratic voters and voters of color in Gwinnett County,” Fair Fight wrote in a series of tweets posted Tuesday. The hashtag #AliceMustGo was trending in the politics section on Twitter Tuesday.

O’Lenick dismissed the calls for her resignation as Gwinnett Election Board Chair for 2021-2022. While she did not deny the partisan nature of her comments at Tuesday’s election board meeting, she said she swore an oath to provide a lawful election in Gwinnett, and “that is what I do.”

Gwinnett’s election board is made up of five members, two appointed by county Republicans, two appointed by county Democrats, and the fifth is selected jointly by the other board members.

At the election board meeting, O’Lenick pushed back on claims that her goal was voter suppression. She said she supports expanding early in-person voting but has called on lawmakers to tighten restrictions on no-excuse absentee voting and eliminate ballot drop boxes. O’Lenick also cast doubt on the accuracy of voter rolls, echoing the unfounded claims of illegal voters brought up by former President Donald Trump and his supporters after the Republican’s loss in November.

Rep. Park said that O’Lenick’s partisan statements were “unbecoming and unacceptable” for an election official. He also said that claims of illegal voters contributed to voter uncertainty, threats to election officials and ultimately the attack by Trump extremists on the U.S. Capitol.

“It was outrageous, first and foremost, that despite a literal attack on our democracy that she continued to harbor these beliefs that there are dead people on the rolls despite the fact that one was debunked,” Park said.

Supporters of O’Lenick, including her fellow Republican board member, spoke out in favor of her remaining in her position at the county election board meeting Tuesday. Opponents, including U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, joined the calls for her resignation.