Should a probate judge, who could face opposition in an election, oversee county elections?
“No,” says Madison County probate judge Cody Cross, who plans to propose a change to the county’s current election setup. Madison County’s probate judge has long served a dual role as the county’s election superintendent. Meanwhile, many Georgia counties have moved away from such a setup.
“The biggest thing about this position serving as election superintendent is when the probate judge has competition, it can be perceived as a conflict of interest to have that person overseeing elections,” said Cross.
Cross campaigned for the probate judge’s post in 2008, saying he felt the county elections setup should be changed. Stripping the probate judge of the position of “election superintendent” would cost Cross about $4,000 in salary, but the judge says the county would be best served by the change.
“Few probate judges handle elections,” said Cross. “Most counties have an independent elections board that oversees those duties.”
Cross said he favors putting the elections board with the registrar’s office, so that “everything dealing with elections is in one entity.”
The judge will soon present commissioners with a packet of various options on changing the setup. The BOC may then take up the matter with Cross. If the commissioners agree that a change is needed, they will need to pass a resolution to put before the General Assembly when it convenes after the new year.
If the BOC agrees to make a change, some factors they’ll have to consider are: Should Madison County have a three or five member elections board? How will those board members be appointed, by the BOC, by political parties, by a Grand Jury? What qualifications must election board members have? How long will they serve? Who will determine the chairman of that board, the BOC or the elections board? How often will they meet? How could a board member be removed? Who will serve as election supervisor/superintendent? How will that person be appointed, by the BOC or the election board? What sort of compensation would be afforded the elections superintendent and elections board? Who will the superintendent answer to, the BOC or the board of elections?
Cross said that he doesn’t feel a change will cost additional taxpayer money. However, he said there are a number of options and agreeing on what is best for the county could take some discussion.
“If there is a problem, I think it will be in agreeing on what form is best for the county,” said Cross.