A lot happened in Georgia in the last 12 months.
In February, Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and murdered in a mostly White neighborhood for the crime of jogging while Black. Throughout 2020, voting rights activist and community organizer Stacey Abrams mobilized Georgia voters, culminating in the state choosing Democrat Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump for President in November.
Then on January 5, 2021 voters decided to send two Democrats to the United States Senate over the Republican incumbents. Most people see a connection between those events.
People attributed the state's flip from red to blue to increased voter turn out inspired by civic leaders like Abrams.
In a free country, an uptick in voter participation should be seen as a positive—especially for the members of a bipartisan election board. But not everyone is a fan.
Alice O'Lenick—one of the Gwinnett County Republican Party's two representatives on the county board—told fellow Republicans she favors major election law changes at the local and state levels.
O'Lenick—the Gwinnett Board of Registrations and Elections chairwoman for 2021 - 2022—implored GOP party members to write letters and make phone calls to state legislators to encourage them to change Georgia election laws.
According to O'Lenick:
"I was on a Zoom call the other day, and I said, 'I'm like a dog with a bone. I will not let them end this session without changing some of these laws'."
" They don't have to change all of them, but they've got to change the major parts of them so that [the GOP] at least have a shot at winning."
GOP chair of the Gwinnett County elections board on why she wants GA legislature to impose new restrictions on voti… https://t.co/N3zmv4rHgQ— Sam Levine (@Sam Levine) 1611077387.0
@srl LOL. This is how republicans win. Through voter suppression.— FatBottomedGrl 🇬🇭🇺🇸✊🏿 (@FatBottomedGrl 🇬🇭🇺🇸✊🏿) 1611082589.0
One of the primary targets for O'Lenick is absentee voting. She suggested only certain Georgians should be allowed to ask for an absentee ballot without giving a "valid" reason for the request.
"The absentee-by-mail, you exclude the elderly and infirm (from needing an excuse), and everyone else would have to have an excuse."
"We took out a few years ago absentee-by-mail for cause, so you don't have to say a cause. You just say, 'It's not convenient. I'm just not going to go (on election day)."
This scenario ignores the fact election day in the United States is not a national holiday. Given the hours long waits experienced in the last election, in-person voting presents a major challenge to many working people.
O'Lenick's claim Republicans can only win if they restrict voting rights is being called a textbook example of saying the quiet part out loud. While critics have long accused the GOP of voter suppression—especially among minority voters—it's unusual for a Republican official to state it as fact so publicly.
O’Lenick says she wants to make sure General Assembly does at least something to address elections so Republicans “have a shot at winning.”— Curt Yeomans (@Curt Yeomans) 1610674567.0
The GOP chair of Gwinnett County elections board Alice O’Lenick said today that she wants GA legislature to impose… https://t.co/2S1I4ZBRtJ— Ricky Davila (@Ricky Davila) 1611084566.0
The admission proved unpopular among Democrats and Republicans in Georgia.
On January 18, fifteen members of the Gwinnett County legislative delegation called on O'Lenick to resign. The legislators signed a letter addressed to her and the Gwinnett elections board.
In a post that included the letter, State Representative Sam Park wrote on his Facebook and Twitter accounts:
" We, the undersigned members of the Gwinnett State House and Senate, demand the resignation of Alice O'Lenick - Chair of the Gwinnett Board of Elections, for her inability to maintain public confidence in conducting impartial elections and her plans to suppress the vote."
"In honor of the life and legacy of Dr. King, and in light of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol along with the ongoing threats to the peaceful transfer of power, we are ready to stand and fight to protect the vote and our Democracy."
We, the undersigned members of the Gwinnett State House and Senate, demand the resignation of Alice O'Lenick - Chai… https://t.co/LfVkCU24mq— Sam Park (@Sam Park) 1611004739.0
Seventeen other groups also called for her to resign or be removed.
Groups calling for O'Lenick's removal include Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Georgia AFL-CIO, Georgia Equality, Fair Fight Action, The Lincoln Project and Voto Latino. In a statement, they said O'Lenick made it clear her motivation was ensuring GOP victory and not free and fair elections.
Georgia's Gwinnett county elections board's chairwoman, Alice O’Lenick, demanded that state lawmakers change electi… https://t.co/uZfHe5D7mq— The Lincoln Project (@The Lincoln Project) 1611096234.0
County election board members and chairs should celebrate high voter turnout, regardless of outcome, not advocate l… https://t.co/UBvdvhMbYz— Fair Fight (@Fair Fight) 1611096129.0
The public didn't offer much in support for O'Lenick either.
"Park said O’Lenick’s concerns — about the security of drop boxes or absentee by mail votes — are “not grounded in… https://t.co/ofTaALrpIU— Lee Fuell (@Lee Fuell) 1611156073.0
O’Lenick said. “They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so that we… https://t.co/SPcurQu6ma— Brian Greenlee (@Brian Greenlee) 1611009520.0
@srl @StephenBright Alice O'Lenick is literally saying the quiet part out loud FFS! If GOP spent more time actually… https://t.co/NgVoJUQyoW— Stace (@Stace) 1611103212.0
@Brambleman @GwinnettDaily Alice O’Lenick is a vote suppressor! #NoExcuseAbsentee is a huge benefit to workers and… https://t.co/fTEbuiugVg— Anna #WearAMask 😷🦠😷 (@Anna #WearAMask 😷🦠😷) 1610984602.0
Gwinnett County elections will ALWAYS be litigated as long as racist Elections Director Alice O'Lenick remains in office #AliceMustGo— Jonathan Jewel 🇺🇸 (@Jonathan Jewel 🇺🇸) 1611102671.0
@Brambleman @Carolyn4GA7 @SamforGeorgia @AuforGA @GwinnettDemWome @GwinnettDems @BlkGwinnett I have had both eyes o… https://t.co/ReKELXRV0S— Senator Nikki Merritt (@Senator Nikki Merritt) 1610987467.0
O’Lenick suggested only certain population groups should be allowed to ask for an absentee ballot without giving a… https://t.co/15qVahjK1h— ❤🤍💙 UNA MUJER - One woman who voted for Biden (@❤🤍💙 UNA MUJER - One woman who voted for Biden) 1611085352.0
Christ, @GOP. You complain that people call you fascists and racists, but with Hawley, Greene and O'Lenick covering… https://t.co/pgFvO9IyIh— Emi-ly (@Emi-ly) 1611098697.0
Alice O'Lenick wrote on Facebook that we have "overspent in the inner city," claiming that "after emancipation all… https://t.co/00gUNSD08D— Accountable.US (@Accountable.US) 1611111300.0
@fairfightaction That’s pretty racist stuff if you ask me. That’s the problem with former confederate states—they a… https://t.co/f0d3q3fXzp— The X Man (@The X Man) 1611108616.0
@ProjectLincoln As a GA voter, I will not stand by while Republicans continue to suppress voters in my state. You s… https://t.co/3vDY198XxJ— SFC Mike 🇺🇲🎖️ (@SFC Mike 🇺🇲🎖️) 1611159998.0
Despite #AliceMustGo trending online, O'Lenick vowed not to resign. In the past the Georgia Republican also
she has Black and Hispanic friends and family, so she can't be racist.