Thursday, April 04, 2024

Oconee County Elections Board Adopts Policies For Public Comment, Use Of Executive Sessions

***Citizens Asked For Opportunity To Speak***

The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration on Tuesday adopted policies for citizen comment at its meetings and for when it goes into executive session.

The Board agreed to set aside 15 minutes at the beginning of its regular monthly meetings for citizens to speak. Citizens will be required to use a sign-up sheet at the meeting and will be called up in order of sign-up.

Each speaker will be allocated not more than three minutes to address the Board.

The policy for executive sessions says the Board will follow requirements of the Georgia Open Meetings Act and will go into executive session only after meeting in open session and voting to close the meeting to the public.

The policy says the Board will go into executive session “to discuss such matters as may be properly considered in executive session.”

The policy does not elaborate on what is allowed by the Georgia Open Meetings Act, but, in general, executive sessions are allowed when decisions are being made about property purchases or leases, about personnel, and about legal issues and taxes.

The Board adopted the policy on public comment after two citizens had asked the Board to agree to provide that opportunity at its meeting in February.

February Request

Suzannah Heimel had asked Elections Board Chair Jay Hanley at the beginning of the February meeting if citizens would be able to speak.

Gregg, Hanley, Kirk Shook (L-R) 4/2/2012

Hanley said the Board never has had a policy allowing for citizen input.

After that February meeting ended, Victoria Cruz and Heimel approached Hanley and asked for discussion of the possibility of allowing citizen input.

Hanley offered the two policy statements to the Board shortly after the meeting began on Tuesday, and the Board adopted both unanimously with little discussion.

Both Heimel and Cruz attended the meeting, but they arrived after the Board had voted to approve the two policy statements.

The timing of the meeting had been incorrectly advertised in one of the listings on the county web site. The meeting began at 5 p.m., and Heimel and Cruz arrived about 5:20, anticipating a 5:30 p.m. start time.

The Board had met in March, but only to certify the results of the March 12 Presidential Preference Primary.

Other Details Of Adopted Speaker Policy

The policy states that the Board will allow only residents of Oconee County or Oconee County business owners to address the Board.

“Political speeches or speeches on behalf of individuals who are on the ballot will not be permitted in public comments,” the policy reads.

Speakers are to state their names, addresses, and any group they are representing.

“All public comments shall be directed to the Board as a body and not to an individual member or Election Office staff member, poll worker, etc.,” the policy reads.

Board members “may address public comments via email or in remarks at a future meeting,” according to the adopted policy, but “neither the Board nor Election Office staff are obligated to respond to any public comments made during regularly scheduled meetings.”

Other Action

In her report to the Board, Sharon Gregg, Director of Elections and Registration for the county, said that total number of registered voters was 33,090, with 30,708 of those Active Voters and 2,382 Inactive Voters.

In February, Gregg reported that the county had 32,935 total voters, with 30,475 Active Voters and 2,460 Inactive Voters.

Voters could begin requesting absentee ballots for the May 21 General Primary/Nonpartisan election on March 4, and Gregg said her office had received 261 requests by the time of the meeting on Tuesday.

The 261 includes 206 Elderly and Disabled rollovers from the March Presidential Preference Primary, 15 UOCAVA automatic rollovers from the March Presidential Preference Primary, and 40 new absentee requests.

UOCAVA stands for Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and applies to U.S. citizens who are active members of the Uniformed Services, the Merchant Marine, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, their eligible family members, and U.S. citizens residing outside the United States.

The first day to mail out those ballots was Tuesday (April 2), the day of the Board meeting.

Upcoming Dates

Gregg said the sample ballot for the May 21 election is ready and will be published on the county web page on Monday.

The ballot consists of two, legal-sized pages, Jennifer Stone, Assistant Director of Elections and Registration, said, “and page two is strictly the special election questions” on the proposed changes to the homestead exemption and property assessment freeze.

The registration deadline for the May 21 election is April 22.

Early voting will begin on April 29 and continue through May 17, including Saturday May 4 and Saturday May 11.

Early voting will be at the county Administrative Building, 7635 Macon Highway, north of Watkinsville.


The video below is of the April 2 meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration.

Discussion of the policies adopted is at 0:49 in the video.

1 comment:

Jim Gaither said...

Register in advance, 3 minute max, 15 minute total--sounds like the Argo/Burgess approach to public comment.