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Brown wants controversial elections board change rescinded

Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown is hoping to rescind a controversial resolution passed by the commission last month that would give the county commission the ability to veto any appointee made by either political party to the Fayette County Board of Elections.

The final say, however, may rest with state legislators who have the ability to either change the law or leave it as is.

Currently, the county commission appoints one member of the elections board, while the Republican and Democratic parties also appoint one member each of their own choosing.

But there are worries that giving the county commission a veto power would give the all-Republican commission the upper hand on the Democratic party specifically, a concern aired last month by Commissioner Eric Maxwell, a Republican who voted against the measure.

In an email to County Manager Jack Krakeel, Brown claims that since the matter wasn’t vetted at a workshop meeting per county policy, it “should be declared null and void.”

“In my estimation, the changes to the Board of Elections and Voter Registration requested by the previous Board of Commissioners is designed to tighten the grip of our local commissioners, three up for election in 2012, over local elections, destroying the accountability that ensures fair and impartial elections,” Brown wrote in the email.

The resolution was approved by commissioners Jack Smith, Robert Horgan and Herb Frady; commissioner Lee Hearn was absent.

The proposal drew Maxwell’s ire, as he pointed out prior to the vote how the switch would allow the Republicans on the county commission “to look over the shoulder of the Democratic Party, saying whether we want to have that person or not.”

This week Brown said he was concerned about the ramifications of a scenario that allows the commission to interfere with the administration of impartial elections.

The final say on the change will come at the state legislature, as the change sought by the commission requires a change to the enabling legislation that created the elections board, which is charged with supervising elections in Fayette County.

Brown said he was also concerned about the way the resolution was handled, since it did not follow the county policy that requires significant new matters to be hashed out in a monthly workshop meeting before appearing on an agenda for consideration.

“It wasn’t formally approved under the process it is mandated that it would follow,” Brown said.

Brown said he is hoping to have the resolution rescinded instead of bringing it back to the county’s next workshop meeting, but he acknowledged that he might not even prevail in the effort, perhaps losing on a 3-2 vote as fellow commissioner Allen McCarty is also likely to vote against the resolution.

“Allen and I both know they were trying to do much of the things they wanted to do before we got in office,” said Brown. “I think that was a last hurrah to cram that in real quick before we got in office.”

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