Kirk Shook, the Republican Party representative on the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration, told his colleagues that he wants to review the policy and procedures that resulted in the Board voting to put the names of two Independent School Board candidates on last November’s ballot.
Shook said “it was a big shock” for him to be asked back in July of last year to vote to allow Ryan Repetske and Melissa Eagling to run following a review by the staff of the Office and Elections and Registration and County Attorney Daniel Haygood of the separate petitions submitted by the two Independents.
“I came in expecting not to pass because there was only just a little more than the amount of signatures required,” Shook said.
Repetske submitted petitions with 1,667 names on them, and then Board of Elections and Registration Director Rebecca Anglin and Haygood told the Board that 1,470 of those names had been validated.
Eagling submitted petitions with 1,674 names on them, and Anglin and Haygood said 1,477 of those were valid.
Anglin had told Repetske and Eagling before they started seeking signatures on their petitions that they needed 1,425 signatures of registered voters, based on state law, to get their names on the ballots.
Anglin and Haygood said that 197 signatures on both of the petitions were not valid, and they said they had informed the Secretary of State Office of irregularities involving some of those signatures. The Secretary of State Office is still investigating those cases.
Shook make his comments about his concerns with the procedures used last year at the end of the Board of Elections and Registration meeting on Feb. 7, and Board Chair Jay Hanley said he would honor Shook’s request and schedule a time to discuss it in the future.
Feb. 7 Meeting
The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration voted on July 25 of last year to accept the petitions of Repetske and Eagling to run as Independents for the Board of Education in November. Repetske was seeking Post 2 on the Board, and Eagling was seeking Post 3.
|Shami Jones, Hammond, Hanley, Gregg, Davis, Shook (L-R)|
Election Board 2/7/2023
Then Director of Elections and Registration Anglin told the Board that Eagling and Repetske had met the requirement that each candidate get 1,425 signatures of voters on petitions asking that they be placed on the ballot.
Anglin said she and her staff had spent seven days checking that the procedures for filing the petitions had followed state law and making sure that each signature on the petition matched the signature on the voter registration form.
Anglin said 197 signatures on Eagling’s petition forms were rejected, and that same number of signatures on Repetske’s petition forms were rejected.
County Attorney Haygood joined the meeting and explained that the Secretary of State Office had been informed of the problems with the 197 signatures.
Shook said at the time he would not support the motion to accept the petitions because he had “some concern about the way the petitions were collected” based on “information that I got.”
Democratic Party appointed Board Member Ken Davis recused himself in the vote because he signed the petition and because members of his family were involved in the petition drive. Hanley, then a member of the Board and now its chair, did not attend the meeting.
Board Member Doug Hammond joined Anglin in voting to put Repetske and Eagling on the ballot to run against Republicans Amy Parrish and Ryan Hammock for Posts 2 and 3 of the School Board respectively in November.
Parrish and Hammock soundly defeated Repetske and Eagling in November.
Shook At February 7 Meeting
As the Feb. 7 meeting of the Board and Elections and Registration came to it end, Hanley turned to Shook and said Shook had sent him an email saying he wanted to discuss the process for handling petitions.
“Not necessarily today because I think it is going to take some time for us to talk about what that is,” Shook said.
“You know, last time we had the Independent candidates petitions and the Office did its work and we got them that day and voted on them,” he continued. “I’d like there to be a different or a bit more of a process to that because I came in expecting not to pass because there was only just a little more than the amount of signatures required.”
“It was a big shock for me to come in and, ‘Oh yea, everything is fine. Let’s move forward.’” Shook said.
“I want that to be something that we talk about whether it is a meeting or a retreat type format or whatever,” he said. “Just kind of policy procedure types thing of how we got about process.”
“That is something that we can definitely look at,” Hanley said.
Hanley then asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting.
Secretary Of State Investigation
The final report on the petitions shows that 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.”
Director of Elections and Registration Rebecca Anglin told the Board at its August meeting that Secretary of State Office Investigator Christopher Baker had visited her office and reviewed the petitions and was 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.
The problems identified were mostly husbands signing for wives and wives signing for husbands, Anglin said at that August meeting. This is not permitted.
I filed an open records request for details of the investigation. The request was denied because, I was told, the investigation was ongoing.
I sent an email on Jan. 25 of this year asking for an update on that request and was told by Stephanie Sheriff, Open Records Request Officer, that “The case is still open.”
No announcement has been made by the Secretary of State Office about the case since that time.
Other Elections Board Action
Sharon Gregg, current Director of Elections and Registration for Oconee County, told the Board at the Feb. 7 meeting that the tentative move date for her office to the new county Administrative Building is July 7 to 10.
“It is very big space,” she said. “We will have plenty of room set up for the machines.”
Early voting will move from the Civic Center to the Administrative Building starting this year.
Gregg also said that confirmation letters are going out to voters who have not voted and are on the verge of being labeled as inactive.
At present, the county has 30,748 active voters and 2,370 inactive voters, for a total of 33,118registered voters, she said.
The video below was recorded from the rear of the meeting room of the Board of Elections and Registration.
Board Chair Hanley allows the recording of the meeting via a stationary camera to create a video record of the meeting.
Shook made his comments about his request for discussion of the petition process near the very end of the meeting and video.