DeKalb residents concerned over lack of ‘representation’ amid commission vacancies 

It’s been months since former DeKalb County commissioners Lorraine Cochran-Johnson and Larry Johnson vacated their seats—as required by law— to run for higher office. Their bids for DeKalb County CEO leave 10 to 20% of county residents underrepresented, according to county election officials.  

Residents aired their frustrations about the lack of representation at a town hall on Thursday. This comes months after the DeKalb County Board of Elections voted to hold a special election for the two open commission seats in November.  

"We reached out a year ago for a drainage issue we’ve been having…I followed up with Larry, Commissioner Larry Johnson. I never heard back…when can we get true representation?" one woman told county leaders. 

DeKalb County Election Board Chair Karli Swift says a state law requiring 90-day notice for special elections to be held at the same time as a presidential primary or general election created a difficult situation with those vacancies coming just two months before primaries on May 21.  

She tells FOX 5 the only other option was holding two separate elections at the same time, which would have required hundreds of new poll workers, the use of completely different ballots, voting equipment, facilities, and educational paperwork. 

"I understand the concerns and I really can ensure voters that we took these matters seriously. We considered multiple factors…operationally, it just wasn’t feasible," she explained. 

The decision left some residents feeling uneasy and unheard with no one to represent their interests. 

"Can we be assured that there is a commissioner that for the next five months we can call to handle our concerns?" another resident asked county officials. 

State Rep. Saira Draper, whose district includes DeKalb County, helped pass a bill that would eliminate the required 90-day notice. 

"The issue that my constituents had rightfully so is that they were going to be either under-represented or not represented at all for 9-10 months," she said. "The issue is the lack of representation that would result because we aren’t able to fill those seats quickly." 

While she says it wasn’t signed into law in enough time to help in this case, she hopes it will make a difference in the future. 

DeKalb County officials say impacted residents are being encouraged to reach out to other commissioners with questions or email the board at with any concerns.