You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Not again, Fulton: another election, another new and different snafu


Since at least 2007, Fulton County has dealt with elections-related problemsthat range from the criminal to the absurd. Tuesday night, they found yet another way to mess up — this time, on a national stage.

In a technology-driven environment, with electronic check-insand voting machines, it was human error that brought the system to a grinding halt: someone put a memory card for a local council race into the wrong basket.

As a result, Fulton shut its vote-counting operation down for more than an hour as it tried to identify which card was the culprit. Never mind that both cards and baskets were color-coded to prevent just that from happening.

The race to represent the traditionally Republican 6th congressional district— which culminated in a June runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel — was seen by many nationwide as a referendum on President Donald Trump. It was the source of breathless commentary for weeks before anyone cast a ballot.

So of course, it took Fulton more than six hours after the polls closed to count them.

In the 6th district race, Fulton results weren’t ready until after 2 a.m. In South Fulton, where residents elected their first mayor and council, it took until almost 3:30 a.m.

When did DeKalb finish? Before 10 p.m. Cobb was done 40 minutes later.

“Little things always seem to pop up,” said Fulton County Registration and Elections Director Richard Barron, who was brought in in 2013 to right the department.

To say that viewers locally and across the nation were exasperated is to undersell the frustration they felt while waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the numbers to come in.

Candice Broce, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State, said she was watching Twitter through the evening. “What a surprise, Fulton County is holding it up again,” she saw tweeted from several political pundits.

In Atlanta, @gl0bo_chem was succinct: “@FultonInfo u up?” the midnight tweet said. @InternallyValid asked the county to ready its fax machines and carrier pigeons.

“We’re not exactly sure why it always ends up this way,” Broce, with the Secretary of State’s office, said. “We don’t have this problem out in DeKalb, in Cobb. We always have it in Fulton.”

Barron, late Tuesday, called the problem a “rare error.” It’s only rare in that it’s something different this time.

Broce rattled off a list of the county’s misdeeds: There was the batch of voter registrations tossed in a Dumpster in 2007. The mismanagement of absentee ballotsin 2008. The 2012 failureto properly register voters, leading 10,000 people to cast provisional ballotsin that year’s presidential race. All resulted in supervision and fines.

2014 was fairly smooth, Broce said, and there weren’t really election problemswith the 2016 presidential contest. But before that race, Barron was under fire for sending letters directing more than 20,000 residents to the wrong polling location. And that spring, it was precinct cardsthat were returned to sender, instead of arriving at voters’ homes.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s always been something come up, every election,” Broce said.

This time, the problem was easily preventable — even silly. Put the memory card in the right basket.

“It reflects poorly on the county as a whole,” said Gabriel Sterling, a Sandy Springs councilman who plans to run for chairman of the Fulton County commission. “From New York City to Hawaii, nobody knew what happened. We’re too big of a county to have those ridiculous issues.”

Twitter had a field day with the delays. In North Carolina, @James_B_Pearce tweeted a picture of Clippy, the Microsoft assistant who always thinks he can write your letter better. “Hey Fulton County, it looks like you’re trying to count ballots,” Clippy said. In California, @tomaikenhead asked whether they county’s intention was to “go to bed on a cliffhanger.” And in Florida, @barttalford tweeted a picture of the painter Bob Ross at the county. “We don’t make mistakes — we just have happy accidents,” it said.

“I don’t administer elections according to what happens on Twitter,” Barron said, while acknowledging it was a frustrating situation.

He was at work until about 4 a.m. — it was after 2 a.m. when the 6th district votes were finally totaled.

“We are consistently the last to report,” Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann said. “I don’t think the community really cares what the issue is. They just want to know the results. The eyes of the country were on us yesterday.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Sheriff: 18 arrested in metro Atlanta meth ring bust
Sheriff: 18 arrested in metro Atlanta meth ring bust

A months-long investigation led to the dismantling of a methamphetamine trafficking ring in metro Atlanta, officials say. Eighteen people were arrested during raids conducted last week, Douglas County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said in a news release. Investigators with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office identified...
Witness to crash that killed 4 teens: ‘There was nothing we could do’
Witness to crash that killed 4 teens: ‘There was nothing we could do’

She wasn’t sure exactly what was in the middle of the road Monday afternoon. Then, Tilafayea Walker realized it was an SUV that had crashed, and she could see someone inside. “Oh my God, there’s someone in the car,” Walker remembers telling her sister, who was driving on Ga. 92 in south Fulton County. Without hesitating, Walker...
2 injured in Bartow County plane crash ID’d
2 injured in Bartow County plane crash ID’d

The pilot and passenger in a Bartow County plane crash were identified Monday, a week after they were taken to hospitals with injuries.  Euharlee police identified pilot Danil Cadena and passenger Alan Villanuva on Monday. Officials did not know their ages or where they are from.  Little is known about Tuesday’s crash, but officials...
Teen arrested in deadly gas station shooting
Teen arrested in deadly gas station shooting

Police arrested one of the people they believe is connected to a shooting that killed a teenager at a Texaco in southwest Atlanta on Friday. Darryl Oliver, 19, is believed to be the person who shot 17-year-old Daronaldo Wilkerson at the gas station on the 1900 block of Sylvan Road, Channel 2 Action News reported. Wilkerson was inside a stolen car at...
More early voting sites may be added for Congress runoff
More early voting sites may be added for Congress runoff

Election officials said Monday they’ll probably increase the number of early voting sites in anticipation of the high-profile runoff election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Nearly 30 residents crammed into a meeting of the DeKalb Board of Registration & Elections to express concerns about the number of early voting sites available...
More Stories