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Monday August 31st, 2015 3:50PM

Former Forsyth Co. elections supervisor to oversee Fulton Co. office

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) Fulton County has hired an election consultant with a no-nonsense reputation after its old election chief was imprisoned and resigned.

Gary Smith will work for the county for a maximum of nine weeks, according Interim Director Sharon Mitchell. Smith was previously the elections supervisor in Forsyth County and a board member of the Georgia Election Officials Association.

He arrives after last month's resignation of former election director Sam Westmoreland, who left office after he was jailed for failing to follow the sentencing terms for 2008 and 2009 DUI arrests. Westmoreland had never run a major election. Fulton has been criticized for its handling of redistricting and previous elections.

"It's going to take everybody in that office pulling together to make sure it goes smoothly," Smith said.

While elections supervisor in Forsyth County, Smith enlisted a large man to help him break down the door of a voting precinct when a building manager refused to unlock it during the 2004 presidential election. About 100 voters were waiting outside to cast ballots.

"It was an obvious choice because he had done a critical analysis of what we're doing," said William Riley, a member of the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections.

Smith was earlier ready to testify as an expert witness for former Sheriff Richard Lankford, who sued the elections board to force a runoff against Sheriff Ted Jackson. Lankford said irregularities and sloppy record keeping called into question the razor-thin election victory by Jackson.

Smith was set to testify about gaps in chain-of-custody paperwork from memory cards and voting machines. A judge ultimately dismissed the case.

Last year, Smith was part of a panel that recommended against hiring Westmoreland.

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