After being out of existence for about three months, the Guilford County Board of Elections is back in business and bigger than ever – and it’s hopefully better than ever as well since it faces a lot of challenges in 2019 and 2020.
The overhauled, newly structured board is meeting for the first time on Tuesday, March 19, and – even though it will be a while before Guilford County puts on an election – there’s already some serious business before the board that needs to be addressed in the near future. The Guilford County Board of Elections – like other elections boards across the state – has been out of business since late December due to a debate at the state level as to how county boards should be structured.
Now that the board is back together and operational – with the same members it had before and one new member – the Guilford County Board of Elections has called a meeting for Tuesday, March 19 at 2 p.m., where the first order of business will be for the new crew to get sworn in, and the second will be to decide on the meeting schedule for 2019.
One decision that the five-member board used to have to make, but doesn’t anymore, is who the chair of the board will be. Under the new rules, the chair is appointed by the governor and, in this case, that means the chairman will be Jim Kimel, a Greensboro attorney who’s served as chairman of the elections board before.
The other members who’ve been appointed to serve on the board are Kathryn Lindley, Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, Eugene Lester and Carolyn Bunker – the only new member.
Rev. Spearman won’t be present at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, he’ll be sworn-in at the next scheduled Board of Elections meeting.
The local elections board is responsible for conducting, administering and overseeing elections held in Guilford County, as well as certifying the results.
Years ago, the job of elections board member used to be a lot simpler than it is now. Due to the divisive political atmosphere in recent years – everything has become more polarized and there are a lot more challenges in the process at the county level – which means there’s a lot more for the local boards to determine.
For instance, prior to last year, the board either never saw – or at least very rarely saw – residency challenges against candidates and voters (claims that they didn’t live where they say they live). However, last year alone, the Board of Elections had several such cases to decide. The board also handles voter registration matters and decides all different types of election protests and challenges.
The newly formed board will also soon face decisions as to what types of voting machines the county should purchase as well as address the question of how best to implement a new photo ID system since the elections office will soon be required to issue ID’s to county residents who need them.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said this week that the Board of Elections and elections staff will have to get up to speed fast on the process of making ID’s since the office must be able to provide that service by May in order to be in compliance with the state’s new voter ID Laws.
Another big project, he said, will be acquiring about $8 million in new voting machines since a state law that goes into effect at the end of the year requires that Guilford County replace all of its existing machines.