Officials investigate outage that caused long lines for Fulton voters

The Secretary of State’s office has opened an investigation into voting issues in Fulton County, after some voters waited three hours to cast their ballots Friday, the last day of early voting.

A technology issue at two polling places that affected access to voter verification systems was compounded by long lines at the end of early voting. In addition, both runoff and special elections required voters to be checked in twice, which took more time, said Richard Barron, the director of Fulton Elections and Registration.

The issues affected voters at the Roswell Library and at Ocee Library in Johns Creek.

Candice Broce, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, said in an email that the two libraries “experienced internet connectivity issues at the polls starting Friday afternoon and throughout the evening.”

Barron said without access to state databases, poll workers had to call in to verify voters by phone.

That extended waits at a time when lines were already long, Barron said. The polls closed at 6 p.m. Friday, and when the issues surfaced at 6:10 p.m., more than 100 people were still waiting to vote.

Broce called the issue an “internet outage at the county level” and said there were no problems with voting machines. She said the matter will be referred to the state elections board.

In the email, Broce said, “frankly, it should not have taken as long as it did for Fulton officials to explain to voters what was going on.”

Barron disputed that it took longer than it should have for voters to be aware of the situation. By the time Fulton’s elections chief arrived around 6:20 p.m., Barron said, an announcement already had been made.

“I don’t know where she’s getting her information,” he said of Broce. “I know the people in line received information about what was going on there.”

Three separate sets of votes were taking place at the county’s early voting sites Friday — for the sixth district congressional race, for runoff elections in Roswell and South Fulton, and for a city council seat in Johns Creek. Residents voting in more than one of those elections had to be checked in twice, Barron said, and vote on separate machines. He called on the governor to not schedule new elections at the same time that runoffs are slated.

Barron said that had more of an effect on long lines than the outage did.

“If you’ve got a connectivity problem, plus long lines, plus after hours, it’s kind of the perfect storm,” he said.

Though Barron said his office still isn’t sure what caused the issue, it will not be a problem for voters Tuesday. While polling places need to connect to the databases during early voting, they do not need the same access on election day.

Additionally, state officials are investigating the theft in Cobb County of a piece of equipment used to check voters in at the polls.

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