The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration met last week to put the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the county ballot in November and to set the qualifying dates for Watkinsville Council Posts 3 through 5.
The Board also received an update on the investigation by the Secretary of State Office of irregularities in the petition drive that put Independent candidates Ryan Repetske and Melissa Eagling on the November School Board ballot.
Director of Elections and Registration Rebecca Anglin told the Board that Secretary of State Office Investigator Christopher Baker had visited her office and reviewed the petitions and is now handling the case.
Anglin also said that Baker told her she had followed the law in accepting the petitions of Repetske and Eagling because they had obtained more than the required 1,425 verified signatures of registered voters in the county.
Anglin said that Baker informed her that she had no authority to throw out all of the petitions because of the flawed ones, as has been requested by some who complained about the petition gathering and the irregularities identified.
The problems identified were mostly husbands signing for wives and wives signing for husbands, Anglin said. This is not permitted.
The focus of the investigation by the Secretary of State Office now is on the collectors of the petitions, Anglin told the Board.
T-SPLOST And Qualifying
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 2 had voted to put the 1 percent Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on the Nov. 8 ballot.
|Anglin At Election Board 7/25/2022|
The Board had initiated the process leading up to the vote on Tuesday back in June.
If approved the county’s sales tax would increase from its current seven cents on a dollar to eight.
A portion of the tax would be used to cover transportation projects normally included in the county’s general fund budget.
The county has promised to reduce its property tax by 1 mill to offset the sales tax increase.
The Elections Board set the qualifying date for the three Watkinsville Council races for Aug. 15 to 17.
The posts are currently held by Brett Thomas (Post 3), Christine Tucker (Post 4), and Jeff Campbell (Post 5). Terms are for two years.
Petition Summary Report
The final report on the petition drives of Repetske and Eagling showed each had 197 rejected signatures.
Repetske had 1,470 accepted signatures, and Eagling had 1,477. They needed 1,425.
Of the 197 rejected signatures for Repetske, 11 were duplicates, meaning the person had signed the petition more than once, 48 were for someone not registered to vote, and four did not have any signature. One was rejected for a reason labeled as “other.”
The remaining 133 rejected signatures were labeled as “invalid.”
Of the 197 rejected signatures for Eagling, 10 were duplicates, 49 were not registered, eight had no signature, and one was rejected for “other.”
The remaining 129 signatures were labeled as “invalid.”
Anglin told me in an email on Aug. 8 that in the case where one person seemed to signing for a spouse, “We rejected only the one that did not match the record on file.”
Repetske is seeking Post 2 on the School Board, and Eagling is seeking Post 3.
Anglin told the Elections Board that “10 or so people” called her or came into her office with concerns about the petitions.
Anglin said these people had requested that she throw out the petitions because of the problems identified in the verification process.
Anglin said that Baker had informed her she could not could not reject the petitions because of the flawed signatures given that each candidate obtained the required 1,425 verified signatures..
Anglin said that the Republican Party of Oconee County had filed a complaint with the Secretary of State Office but she had not seen that complaint.
Anglin said in an email message to me on Aug. 8 that “I never received the report filed from Republican Party nor do I anticipate that I will.”
Republican Party Response
I asked Oconee County Republican Party Chair Kathy Hurley on Aug. 8 if she would provide me with a copy of the complaint she filed with the Secretary of State Office.
|Cover Sheet At Secretary Of State|
I filed an open records request with the Secretary of State Office later that day.
“I am seeking a copy of the complaint filed by Kathy Hurley and/or The Oconee County Republican Party with your office regarding the petition initiatives of Ryan Repetske and Melissa Eagling to run as Independents for the Oconee County Board of Education in November of 2022 as well as any response of the Secretary of State Office to the complaint, including acknowledgments of its receipt.”
In less than an hour, I received a reply that “The Secretary of State has processed your request. Please see the attached cover sheet. The case is still open so we can only release the cover sheet. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(3)-(4).”
The Cover Sheet labels the Case Description as “Oconee County Ballot Harvesting” and the Case Category as “Elections–Illegal Assistance to Voter.”
It does not indicate what outcome is sought.
Hurley offered an explanation for her decision not to provide me with the complaint.
“Since your name appears prominently as a circulator on numerous pages of both petitions it would be improper for me to share with you any details in regard to the complaint I filed with the Secretary of State's office, or their reply, as your impartiality in this matter is compromised,” she wrote
“I trust you recognize the conflict of interest,” her email continued.
I responded to Hurley indicating that “I solicited the petitions independent of the organized group. I have made that clear.”
“I believe I can write about this in an informative way,” I wrote. “I will always make clear my own involvement.”
Hurley did not reply.
As I reported in my post of July 12, 2022, when Repetske and Eagling submitted their petitions, I had contacted people with whom I have interacted in the county over the years as I have worked on this blog and asked if they would be willing to sign the petitions.
I also canvassed my own neighborhood. I live in Welbrook Farms off Daniells Bridge Road.
I explained in that post that I did this because I believe Independent candidates should be able to get their names on the ballot, even though I almost always vote with the Republican ballot.
I had made it clear to those who were organizing the petition drive that I would not coordinate with them because I wanted to remain independent of their initiative. I said I planned to report on what they did on this blog.
My only coordination with the group working with Repetske and Eagling was with Courtney Davis, who notarized the petitions I submitted.
In the end, obtained 111 signatures on petitions I circulated.
I had used a voter list for the county that I purchased from the Secretary of State Office on April 5 before I approached any friend or house. I purchase these lists at least once a year so I can identify people who speak at meetings.
I was curious about three people who signed the petition when I asked them. One had the right arm in a sling because of recent surgery and expressed concern that the signature would not match the one on file.
Another signed the name in such a way that I asked if this really was the way the signature would appear on the election record. The person said it would.
The third was a young person who “signed” the name with block letters. I was told this was the signature that was on file.
I filed an open records request with the county for the lists of names on the petitions for both Repetske and Eagling as well as the verdict for each of those names.
All three of these signatures were labeled as accepted.
One of my signatures was rejected because the person had signed twice. I had no knowledge of that. The person could have signed after signing for me.
Another was rejected because the person registered in Clarke County after signing the petition.
Anglin explained when I asked her out of curiosity on Aug. 8 that while the signature was valid when I obtained it, it was not valid by the time the petitions were turned in to her office.
The person was labeled as “Not Registered,” though I knew the person had been registered on April 5.
I had no knowledge the person intended to change registration after signing.
Another person signed with one address but was accepted at another when that person moved.
I had been very insistent that I had to see the person sign the petition and had informed those I met that the signature had to match the one on the voter record.
The oath I signed on the back of the petition stated that “I personally circulated the foregoing petition sheet” and that “each signer manually signed his or her own name on this sheet with full knowledge of the contents of the petition.”
The petition also states that “to the best of my knowledge and belief, that such signers are registered electors of the State of Georgia qualified to sign such petition.”
It is because of this oath that the Secretary of State investigation is focused on the collector rather than on the person who signed the petition.
The oath has to be signed in the presence of a notary. Davis served that role for me.
How I Reported This Story
I did not attend the meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration on Aug. 3, and I did not make arrangements to record the session because I was out of town that day and the day before.
A friend did attend and took notes and relayed those notes to me.
I then went over those notes in detail with Anglin, who confirmed the notes and added additional information.
I did try to contact Investigator Baker, both by telephone and by email.
He did not respond.
Anglin Stepping Down; GOP Forum
Anglin announced on the morning of Aug. 8 that she is stepping down as Director of Elections and Registration effective Aug. 26.
She has accepted a job with the Secretary of State Office as Elections System Specialist II.
The Oconee County Republican Party is holding a Board of Education Candidate Forum beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the Oconee County Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road.
Republican Candidates Amy Parrish (incumbent Post 2), and Ryan Hammock (Post 3) have been invited, as well as Repetske (Post 2), and Eagling (Post 3).
WGAU Radio personality Tim Bryant is scheduled to moderate.
The Oconee County Republican Party meeting on Aug. 22 will focus on the Future of the Pro-Life Movement in Georgia and feature Frontline Policy President Cole Muzino.
That meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in Marswood Hall, 3761 Mars Hill Road.