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Court to decide third elections board seat
June 25, 2015 Board of Elections meeting. Left to right: Karen James, William Todd, Johnny Brown, Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch. - photo by Courtesy of Rockdale County Channel 23

CONYERS - The Rockdale County Board of Elections is turning to the courts again to fill the third seat after the clock ran out for the Republican and Democratic members to come to an agreement on their choice. This time, however, procedures are in place to guide that process.

The member appointed by the Rockdale Republican Party, Johnny Brown, and member appointed by the Rockdale Democratic Party, Karen James, had until July 31 to agree on a selection for the third seat. The third seat has been filled since 2012 by William Todd, a former State Court judge.

At the June 25 Board of Elections meeting, Johnny Brown made a motion to reappoint Todd, who had been the compromise agreement in 2012 after the Republican and Democratic members disagreed on their first selection. Karen James made a motion to open up the position to allow other members of the public, including Todd, to apply for the third seat.

Brown expressed frustration with the matter being brought up in June. That would not leave enough time to conduct interviews with applicants and if they could not agree the matter would go before the judge, he said. "It's been on the agenda since March. Now why are we springing it up here now?" he asked. "Why are we waiting until the last minute? I'm starting a job out of town Monday morning. I'll be tied up until the last part of July."

James said, "What I will say is that it is the decision of the Democratic party to open it up for consideration."

The bylaws were changed to provide a way to break a deadlock after the 2011 debacle where the Democratic member Garvin Haynes and Republican member Lynn Brown could not come to an agreement and were both dismissed from the board by then-Chief Superior Court Judge Sydney Nation.

As of July 29, Brown and James could submit their recommendation for the third seat to Chief Superior Court Judge David Irwin, who was out of the office last week.

Brown confirmed his choice remained Todd.

James could not be reached as of press time but Rockdale Democratic Party Chair Elaine Davis-Nickens said the Democratic choice was not Todd.

There is no deadline for Judge Irwin to decide on the third member and the judge indicated he would like to conduct interivews of candidates. Judge Irwin can choose the candidates nominated by the Republican and Democratic members or can choose a different candidate. The current board chair, Todd, would serve in the position until the decision is made.

"The thing we were concerned about was opening up the process," said Davis-Nickens, adding that they wanted to make sure the third seat selection was representative of all the community in Rockdale.

In 2014, the issue of Sunday voting had been proposed but had died for a lack of a second.

Todd explained at the June 25, 2015 meeting why he did not second bringing that issue to a vote. "I was not, at that point, prepared to vote... My job is to do what I think is beneficial to all concerned. In that particular case, I wasn't ready to make that decision."