ALPHARETTA, Ga. — With 40,000 unregistered voters in North Fulton, the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and the county Department of Registration and Elections board teamed up to do something about it.
Dozens of officials from the six North Fulton cities and others gathered Jan. 11 at the Haynes Bridge Road headquarters of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce to be trained to register people to vote.
GNFCC Public Policy Coordinator Bernie Tokarz said the training came about because the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections suggested that officials from the city governments be trained as registrars. Deputy registrars are able to register voters in conformance with new laws requiring more documentation to register to vote.
Tokarz said with around 40,000 people in North Fulton unregistered, the chamber is stepping up to assist.
“We are committed to working with the county [and] all the citizens of Fulton cities to improve service delivery and to achieve parity for North Fulton,” he said. “Anything we can do, we are excited to participate.”
Some 90 people, including city employees from all six North Fulton cities, PTA representatives and members of civic organizations like the Rotary Club of Roswell, underwent the training.
Tokarz said the effort was nonpartisan and non-issue. He specifically said it is not connected with the GNFCC’s effort to persuade voters to pass a 1 percent sales tax for transportation improvements.
The goal of the partnership is to register large numbers of new voters because elections have consequences.
“In 2012, we have a presidential election [and] we have the Transportation Investment Act,” he said. “We have legislative primaries. The more people engaged, the better.”
He said everyone should pay their “civic rent” and vote.
“[The training] is a fairly straightforward process,” said Interim Director of the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections Sam Westmoreland.
He said any average citizen could be a deputy registrar.
Two hours of instruction are required. Deputy registrars must live in the county they serve, must be mentally competent and cannot be felons. They are official representatives of the Department of Registration and Elections, and a single registrar can host a voter registration event. Having government officials as deputy registrars expands opportunities people have to register to vote.
“City Hall is a great place to do that,” he said.
Mary Rummell, program coordinator with Roswell Recreation, underwent deputy registrar training and said she found the training interesting. She was surprised at the number of people who are not registered to vote in North Fulton and looked forward to registering them.
Johns Creek Chief of Staff Patty Hansen served as a captain. Her job was to bring Johns Creek employees to be trained as deputy registrars and brainstorm ideas for voter registration drives.
“The training was excellent,” she said. “It was very informative.”
“I wish people looked at it as their duty instead of their right,” said Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who attended the event.
“In this country, you have the ability to select people who make the decisions that affect your life,” she said.
GNFCC President and CEO Brandon Beach said the chamber is happy to help train officials in registering people to vote. He said the chamber does not endorse candidates, but it does endorse the political process. Part of that process is the right and duty to vote.
“We just think this is Civics 101,” he said.