By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support local journalism.
New member joins Dawson County elections board
Board of Elections 2023
Probate Judge Jennifer Burt, left, swears in Dawson County’s Board of Elections and Registration at its Jan. 19 meeting. From center left, members Dan Pichon, Marie Head, Paul McComiskey, Dale Holland and Katrina Holbrook. - photo by Julia Hansen

A familiar face has officially joined Dawson County’s Board of Elections and Registration.

This story continues below.

During the board’s Jan. 19 meeting, prior precinct volunteer Paul McComiskey recited his oaths of office alongside four returning board members Dan Pichon (R), Marie Head (D), Katrina Holbrook (R) and Dale Holland (D).

Previously, McComiskey served as a Dawson County poll worker for the past three to four years, recently helping at the bustling eastern precinct, located at Fire Station 2.

McComiskey’s admiration for his fellow colleagues and volunteers at the elections office led him to “just jump” at the chance to serve on the elections board in a non-partisan role.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to provide more input at a different level within the community,” McComiskey said. “I’m so impressed with the transparency [around voting machine prep] and how important it is.”

Dale Holland has been appointed the board’s chairman, while Marie Head has been named its vice-chair. Dan Pichon will serve as its secretary. 

Holland, McComiskey and Pichon will serve four-year terms effective Jan. 1, 2023 until Dec. 31, 2026. Head and Holbrook will serve two-year terms that will run until Dec. 31, 2024. 

The staggered terms aren’t the only change coming to the BOER this year. Before Holland became the new board chair, Glenda Ferguson stepped down as the board’s chairperson while still retaining her role as the elections office’s director. 

This was done so that if at some point, the director position becomes vacant, then the county could open up the pool of prospective replacements to candidates outside of Dawson County. Last year, the board’s bylaws were changed so that it will be superintendent and chief registrar of county elections. 

Ferguson and the people who would eventually succeed her in the director role would still oversee and handle the day-to-day operations of the elections office. 

Special election runoff

In other news, advance voting for the Ga. House District 7 special election runoff will take place from Monday, Jan. 23 until Friday, Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Board of Elections office. The office is located at 96 Academy Avenue in Dawsonville.

Election Day voting will take place Jan. 31 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Fire Station 6, located at 2142 Hubbard Road.

As a reminder, only western precinct residents are eligible to vote in this runoff to fill the seat of late representative and former state house speaker David Ralston. 

Trust and growth

As part of the Jan. 19 meeting, elections board members discussed the importance of ongoing logic and accuracy testing. Before each election, local elections officials test equipment planned for use for in-person advance and Election Day voting. 

For some, that means taking the time and patience to explain how that equipment factors into the voting process for people concerned when they come to observe the testing, Ferguson said. 

From his observations, many of those people who came in with initial concerns about voting miscounts or election cheating leave the elections office satisfied with what they’ve been shown, Holland added. 

“It can be a painful process, but I love that it’s transparent,” McComiskey said. “That’s how we’re going to get past the distrust.”

Given the county’s population growth in recent years, the board also discussed the possibility of another voting precinct.

“I’d like us to be thinking about another voting precinct and how we’re going to implement it,” Pichon said. 

According to the most recent voter report, there are 24,686 total active and inactive eligible voters in Dawson County. Of those who actively vote, 2,820 did so in the county’s western precinct, while there were 7,298 voters for the central precinct and 3,011 for the eastern precinct. 

“The question is can we pull off, between the central and east [precinct], 7,300 people,” Pichon said, later noting a desired 7,000-7,500-person maximum per precinct.

Adding a fourth precinct would take between three to six months, Ferguson added, noting that “sooner is better” in terms of getting that to happen. The process would involve redefining voters zoned for each precinct, pulling voters from the East and Central precincts and redrawing precinct boundary lines while being mindful of factors like Dawsonville’s city limits. 

The elections office would also have to communicate with county officials about finding a venue with the right kind of access and space to host a new voting precinct, board members noted. 

Once the groundwork is in place to execute the change, voters would have to be notified via legal notice, precinct cards and appropriate signage. 

With the recent population growth and active voting numbers, Ferguson explained that “we’ve got to do something.”