Gwinnett County Board of Registrations and Elections Chairwoman Alice O’Lenick did not deny comments she made at a Gwinnett Republican Party meeting last week and resisted calls to resign Tuesday night.

O’Lenick, who is one of two Gwinnett GOP appointees on the bipartisan elections board, is facing calls from 15 members of Gwinnett County legislative delegation — all Democrats — as well as 17 voting and civil rights groups to step down.

Those calls were in response to a Daily Post report over the weekend in which she was quoted telling the county’s GOP on Jan. 14 that she felt election law changes should be made so Republicans would “at least have a shot at winning.” The comments also drew condemnation from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux.

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But, O’Lenick stood her ground as she addressed the controversy at the elections board meeting on Tuesday.

“I swore an oath to uphold the laws and provide a lawful election in Gwinnett County, and that is what I do,” O’Lenick said.

O’Lenick’s comments and the calls for her resignation come on the heels of a heated elections season that ended with President Donald Trump and his attorneys and supporters floating claims — which were refuted by officials in Georgia’s Secretary of State office — of widespread voter fraud in Georgia.

The changes O’Lenick advocated including scaling back no excuse absentee-by-mail voting, limiting it to the elderly and “infirm,” and eliminating absentee ballot drop boxes.

“We, the undersigned Gwinnett state legislators, demand your immediate resignation for the irreparable harm your public statements have caused, which clearly demonstrate your inability to complete the duties of chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Elections to ensure free and fair elections and an open democratic process for the citizens of Gwinnett County,” the 15 legislators — three-fifths of the county’s legislative delegation — wrote in their letter to O’Lenick.

News of O’Lenick’s comments has gained attention across the country.

As the elections board was meeting Tuesday night, a hashtag targeting O’Lenick, #AliceMustGo, was the second highest trending item in the U.S. on Twitter with 25,300 tweets with that hashtag being posted as of 7 p.m.

“O’Lenick isn’t even trying to hide her bias against Democratic voters and voters of color in Gwinnett County,” Stacey Abrams’ group, Fair Fight, said in one of a series of four tweets. “She has made clear that her only motivation is pure partisanship, engaging openly in rhetoric that is more suited for a political party hack than an elections official.”

During the virtual meeting, critics and supporters of O’Lenick debated whether she should step down or be removed from the elections board.

The criticism at the meeting began with a statement from Stephen Day and Wandy Taylor, the two Gwinnett County Democratic Party appointees on the elections board, before it moved on to the public comment section.

“Simply put, they want to change the rules to bias the laws against Democrats to help Republicans win elections,” Taylor said as she read the statement. “This attitude violates the fundamental principles of our representative democracy and frankly it’s un-American.

“The idea that one political party can only win by suppressing the vote of another political party is an abomination of our system of governance.”

O’Lenick said she believes people should have more access to vote, pointing to her support of expanding early voting hours and being in favor of adding more early voting sites.

“Addressing absentee-by-mail is not voter suppression, it is vote security,” O’Lenick said. “We should encourage voting in person, either during early voting, known as AIP, or on election day. I have voted for and implemented more hours of early voting, more days of early voting and two Saturdays and two Sundays in the last election.

“Do we need more hours? In my opinion, yes. Do we need more locations for early voting? Yes.”

Critics who spoke during public comments claimed her comments amounted to voter suppression, with one person comparing it to Jim Crow laws.

State Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, countered O’Lenick’s assertions that she was not advocating voter suppression by arguing that some of the changes she was advocating, including removing drop boxes and scaling back no excuse absentee-by-mail voting, was in fact suppression.

“Chairman O’Lenick’s remarks, which she has not stated were a misquote when she had an opportunity to do so in her opening remarks, that she will fight to disenfranchise voters to give a political party, the Republican Party, ‘a shot at winning’ are antithetical to a robust and functional democracy,” Clark said.

Other people who spoke during public comment questioned whether O’Lenick should publicly advocate for elections law changes while sitting on the county’s elections board.

“If she sees her role as an advocate, then she needs to be a lobbyist or run for elected office,” Curt Thompson, a former state senator and county commission chairman candidate, said.

Supporters, however, praised O’Lenick and said she has worked for years to protect voting in Gwinnett County.

Warren Auld, who was at the Gwinnett GOP meeting where O’Lenick made the comments at the center of the controversy, said comments made against her were “inflammatory” and were not based in fact.

“She advocated some changes, advocated looking at absentee ballot issues, drop and reviewing the election laws,” Auld said. “The statements in opposition to her almost immediately jump to conclusions about attitude alleging she was suppressing the vote. There was language of her participating in Jim Crow-ism, conspiracies, attempting to suppress the vote, even alleging African-Americans would be harmed by what she was doing.

“All of those are just without any basis in fact.”

Gwinnett GOP Chairman Edward Muldrow said that, as a Black man, he does not feel his vote would be suppressed if the changes O’Lenick has called for were adopted.

“I think it’s actually laughable that we have people using phrases like ‘Jim Crow’ and ‘voter suppression’ and invoking the victimhood, if you will, of Black people in order to support their stance for wanting to remove Alice O’Lenick,” Muldrow said.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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(10) comments

mentelligence

LOL all of the comments in support of her resignation were deleted. OK Boomers. You can't stop reality.

billgriffin

Candidates will adapt to voting by mail, the results are not the point. Voting that is not anonymous is an opportunity for vote observation, selling and buying votes, coercion, intimidation, threats, and violence or other recriminations....true voter suppression! Voting by mail creates those opportunities and the existence of those opportunities create doubt. Who wants to live in a society like that? Who wants a system where there is doubt? Voting must be anonymous.

MarvinGardens

A Republican trying to make it harder for people to vote? We should hardly be surprised. It's what they do, whenever they can.

But it's also amazing how short everyone's memory is. Democrats using mail-in voting in greater numbers is a recent phenomenon, because Democrats take the pandemic more seriously. Traditionally, absentee ballots trended Republican. If an election was very close and only the absentee votes were left to count, you knew the Republican would probably win. This was because absentee skewed elderly, and elderly skews Republican.

So longer term, this will help Democrats and hurt Republicans. I still oppose it because it should be easy for all registered voters to vote, even older Republicans.

MissDaisy

............and easier for the ballot harvesting. Voting has become too casual and caviler. It should be serious and formal throughout the process. Registering to vote should be done in person at the voter registration office, with an oath administered; not registering at the library, doctor's office or while ordering a Whopper and fries. Voting should also be in person on Election Day; no mail-in or early voting. Absentee voting should be limited to a few verifiable circumstances; such as medical reasons with a doctor's certificate or military with orders.

MissDaisy

So, she is in favor of election security? How dare she!

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JHopkins@

I stand 100% with Alice O'Lenick

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JHopkins@

Shame on you! This is nothing more than a shameful attempt to purge the remaining Republicans from office in Gwinnett County and you know it. If I were her I would vigorously pursue in court damages from all those calling her disgusting names and lobbing baseless and false allegations at her. Every last one of them and I wouldn't stop until every one of them were punished. Shameful.

ddooley

I stand with Alice and could care less what Democrats want or think.. She did nothing wrong...

kathystatham

I was on the board of elections zoom tonight for over 3 hours yet my comments were not allowed. I was overlooked. Where was the outrage when Ms O’Lenick was called a “white supremacist and racist”? When an elected representative, Sam Park, stated Ms O’Lenick holds responsibility for the thugs that stormed our Capitol? Free Speech for him but not for for her? The hate that spewed from the people demanding she resign was nauseating. When Rafael Warnock said “white people need to repent for their whiteness” was he called out? No he was elected. When Representative Donna McCloud made bigoted comments about white people was she called out? No she was elected. I heard repeatedly the use of Trump’s name. These people want to cancel anyone that does not believe what they believe. I intend to file a censure request against the elected officials that tonight slandered Ms O’lenick’s name on this call. I also strongly ask Ms O’Lenick DO NOT RESIGN”. You speak for everyone that does want our election laws changed so that the illegal votes cast do not wipe out mind and any other legal registered voter in Gwinnett.

A FOIA request will be sent to the election Board requesting a copy of ALL comments made on this Zoom call tonight. They will be publicly posted so everyone can see the hatred that was presented tonight.

stfu

Dog whistle much?

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