SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia Secretary of State and local representatives are calling for the Spalding County elections supervisor to step down.
The request comes following alleged “serious management issues and poor decision-making during the November 3 general election,” by supervisor Marcia Ridley, according to a release from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Sen. Marty Harbin, Rep. David Knight and Rep. Karen Mathiak joined Secretary Brad Raffensperger in calling for Ridley’s resignation.
“County elections officials are responsible for ensuring the voting process is smooth and efficient and must take responsibility when they fail,” Raffensperger said. “Georgians statewide waited on average just 3 minutes on Election Day but poor decision making in Spalding County denied those voters a quick and reliable voting experience. The serious management issues we saw in Spalding County on Election Day demonstrate that new leadership is needed to uphold election integrity there.”
[SPECIAL SECTION: Election 2020]
On Election Day, officials had said workers incorrectly loaded information onto the poll pads that morning, so none of the machines were working.
The county rushed thousands of provisional ballots to each precinct so voting could continue, but many voters spent much of their time standing in line.
The secretary of state’s office said county election officials have been trained to use a workaround if the machines aren’t working or conduct voting on emergency ballots.
“In Spalding County, none of that was done. Instead of using one of the many workarounds built into the system or using emergency ballots as required by law when the equipment is not working, Spalding County Elections Supervisor Marcia Ridley instructed elections workers to use provisional ballots, which are processed differently than regular ballots. This violated established election process and possibly, Georgia law,” the office said.
Channel 2 Action News released the following statement from Spalding County Board of Elections and Registrations Chair Margaret Bentley.
“The board will convene an emergency meeting on December 2, 2020 to discuss this issue, but I can personally state that Director Marcia Ridley has my full support and I have no intention of asking for her resignation. This election had the largest turnout in the history of Spalding County with 30,250 voters casting their ballots on election day, early voting, and absentee ballots. Our staff handled the emergency with the utmost level of professionalism in a county that saw over 65% of the electorate casting their ballots for President Trump.”
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Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne has been tracking what happened in Spalding County for weeks since Elections Day and the investigations into the county.
“We have an open investigation. We’re reviewing our findings but there’s just too much here,” Deputy Secretary Jordan Fuchs told Winne.
Fuchs said the secretary of state investigations division has now debunked a report of a mysterious upload at a Spalding County voting location the night before Election Day.
But there’s no mystery about what the office believes should happen now: that Ridley should resign.
“Voters were complaining to us that they stood in line for several hours,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs said the bogus upload report fed into conspiracy theories about the 2020 election in Georgia, but there were multiple complaints about how Spalding County handled the election.
The county failed to take the steps that should have been taken after the computer problem occurred, according to the secretary of state’s office.
“At the end of the day, counties run elections,” Fuchs said.
The office also said Ridley spread false information with the voting machines by claiming there was an update to the system the night before Election Day.
“No such update had been made nor had the voting machines been touched for days before the election,” the office said. “By spreading this baseless and thoroughly inaccurate rumor, Ridley greatly harmed election integrity in Georgia and provided talking points for those looking to undermine elections in the Peach State.”
Ridley isn’t the first elections official to come under fire by the secretary of state’s office. In November, Floyd County officials fired Chief Clerk of Elections Robert Brady after thousands of uncounted ballots were found during Georgia’s audit process last week.
The Deputy Secretary of State told Winne the Spalding situation and two others will prompt Raffensperger to ask the legislature to give him the authority to fire county elections directors.
“The secretary of state’s office needs to be given the authority to fire elections directors and fire their boards when they consistently fail their voters,” Fuchs said.
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