His announcement comes a day after local elections that he and other officials in Fulton County, Georgia, said it went relatively smoothly.
Barron’s departure underscores the precarious position of election officials, who have faced unprecedented personal attacks in the past year and punishes new laws that threaten to equate professional supervisors and install party political actors in their place.
Election observers have warned for months that the country could face a mass exodus of experienced election leaders if the onslaught of threats continues, driven by relentless lies that election fraud contributed to former President Donald Trump’s loss a year ago.
“I think we have a lot of cowardly elected officials who will not let go of ‘the big lie’ because they are afraid of their constituents,” Barron told CNN in an interview. “If they could have stood up, they could have put an end to this a long time ago.”
Barron, 55, has led the election in Fulton County since 2013. He said he would leave his position on Dec. 31. He said he plans to oversee operations in the runoff in the race for the mayor of Atlanta, which is scheduled for Nov. 30.
His tenure has been stoned in recent years.
A primary election in June 2020 – while the Covid-19 pandemic was at its height – was marked by hour-long queues and complaints that voters could not receive the absentee ballots they had requested. The parliamentary elections and the Senate’s Senate settlement in January functioned more smoothly.
Republicans in the Georgian Legislative Assembly cited electoral integrity and voters’ concerns about fraud to pass a comprehensive law this year that imposes new ID identification requirements for voting by mail and other restrictions. It also targeted practices that Fulton County used in 2020, such as mobile voice devices, to expand options during the coronavirus pandemic.
The law also paved the way for government officials to take control of local county election operations after a performance review.
After the 2020 election, Barron became the public face of the county’s election operation – and a target for threats – as former President Donald Trump and his allies made disproven claims that Fulton County workers burned and otherwise destroyed ballots.
But Barron has been criticized for Fulton County’s operations by some state and local officials.
Carter Jones, a non-partisan state-appointed monitor tasked with reviewing Fulton County operations, reported this year that he had revealed signs of “systemic disorganization” in the election office. But Jones said he found no evidence of “illegality, fraud or willful misconduct.”
A separate state investigation is underway after two Fulton County employees were fired last month for shredding voter registration applications.
Earlier this year, the county election board voted to fire Barron, only to have Fulton County commissioners override this decision and extend his term.