DeKalb Dems Response to the June 2020 Primary

June 29, 2020

Dekalb County Commissioners

Dekalb County Board of Registration and Elections

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a well functioning democracy.  What we witnessed on June 9th put that goal at risk in Dekalb County and eroded voter’s confidence in the process.  Our poll monitors and members reported wide ranging issues throughout the primary process including issues with timely processing of absentee ballot requests, receipt of actual ballots, submission acknowledgement and the actual counting of ballots.  We also saw many problems on Election Day starting with last minute polling place changes, lack of voter notification of those changes, equipment issues, and long lines at polling locations.  These issues all served to disenfranchise voters and are unacceptable.  We must and can do better in Dekalb County. I am writing to demand that immediate improvements be made to ensure future elections support the right of every voter in Dekalb County to cast their ballot without barriers. 

With historic turn out anticipated in the November general election, it is imperative that significant actions be taken now.  Dekalb Dems stand ready to support this process including advocating for required funding investments.  Specifically, we ask that you as the officials responsible for elections in this county to:

  1. Fully adopt and implement the recommendations and action plan laid out in the May 29th consultant report by The Elections Group.  We appreciate the investment in this consultant engagement and strongly support their recommendations.  The comprehensive report focuses on filling identified critical gaps and positioning Dekalb County as a leader in administering elections.  As they advocated, these improvements are ONLY possible with increased investment in executive level staffing, space, systems and equipment. 
  2. Prioritize actions to improve the vote by mail process.  This includes immediate improvements in the current process while planning strategically to implement future changes made possible by the Secretary of State request portal.  While we saw record numbers of voters choosing to vote by mail for the June 9th primary, we also heard significant voter frustration with the process—and our monitors witnessed the laborious manual process of processing of these ballots.  Improvements are needed for this to be viable in November, both to address anticipated volume and for a potentially serious COVID environment. 
  3. Proactively plan for Election Day in November when record turn out is expected.  First by encouraging voters to use vote by mail and early voting options and second with a robust plan for accessible polling locations that can accommodate the new voting system and equipment, and recruitment and training of poll workers to adequately staff.  We are aware of numerous community organizations that are well positioned to assist with poll worker recruitment and encourage your collaboration to enlist this support.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate with voters and stakeholders.  Transparency is essential to regain voter confidence and collaboration with many stakeholders will also support this goal.  From a user friendly web site to active social media, all means need to be taken to encourage and educate regarding vote by mail and early voting options to lessen the burden on Election Day.  An intentional comprehensive communication plan with dedicated staffing is required to advance these strategies.   

I know you share the goal of providing accessible, efficient and fair elections in Dekalb County and we look forward to working with you as actions are taken to reach these goals. 

Sincerely,

John Jackson
Chair
Dekalb County Democratic Committee

DeKalb Dems Chair

DeKalb Dems reluctantly accepted the resignation of our chair, Jennifer Young, at our November monthly meeting. Jennifer was a fierce advocate of GOTV efforts and was instrumental in making DeKalb Dems more visible in DeKalb County. We wish Jennifer the best, and we will continue to execute on her vision.