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Republicans sue Georgia's DeKalb County over outside election funding info

David Wickert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

ATLANTA — The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit claiming DeKalb County violated state open records laws by failing to turn over documents related to its acceptance of an election grant.

Last year the county accepted a $2 million grant from the Alliance for Election Excellence, a nonprofit group. Republicans say the grant violates a 2021 Georgia law that prohibited local election officials from accepting outside assistance.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in DeKalb County Superior Court, the RNC says it sought communications and other documents related to the grant and the county’s membership in the alliance in a series of records requests in November and December. The lawsuit says the county repeatedly delayed disclosing the information and ultimately did not disclose all relevant documents.

The lawsuit says DeKalb violated the Georgia Open Records Act, naming Election Director Keisha Smith and other county officials as defendants.

“Ensuring illegal money is not influencing our election process is critical in Georgia and beyond,” RNC Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement announcing the lawsuit Friday. “This lawsuit is necessary to obtain the full record regarding DeKalb County’s receipt of election-related funds and hold the county accountable.”

DeKalb officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a battle over nonprofit election funding that began during the 2020 election. That year, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a group funded in part by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, gave $45 million to dozens of Georgia counties. The center later helped found the Alliance for Election Excellence.

Republicans criticized the Center for Tech and Civic Life funding, which went overwhelmingly to Democratic-leaning counties. Supporters of the grants said they provided needed resources at a time when election officials were stretched thin, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, Georgia lawmakers prohibited local election officials from accepting any funding or gifts except from local, state or federal governments as part of a sweeping rewrite of state election laws. But DeKalb found a loophole — last year’s grant went to the county government, not directly to the election board.

Two months later, the General Assembly closed the loophole, passing a law that says any county government official who accepts future outside money could face felony charges punishable by at least a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law did not retroactively require DeKalb to give up the $2 million grant.


©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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