DeKalb elections officials offer more insight into May primary issues

DeKalb elections officials have released new information explaining what went wrong in a messy May primary.

The Democratic primary for DeKalb County Commission District 2 ultimately went to a runoff, which was won by local nonprofit consultant Michelle Long Spears. The initial three-way election, though, was beset with technological issues and ultimately led to a hand count that produced drastically different results from erroneous early tallies.

Officials have said a series of voting equipment programming changes initiated by the Georgia secretary of state’s office and its Center for Elections Systems — which were required after other errors involving recent redistricting and a fourth candidate’s withdrawal from the race — created a litany of issues that led to the faulty machine count.

But plenty of questions remained about how, exactly, election day votes were improperly allocated as they were counted.

ExploreDeKalb certifies results in contentious commission race

A new eight-page document included as part of documents related to the DeKalb elections board’s Thursday afternoon meeting provided more insight.

In the end, officials wrote, there were “four different configurations used at District 2 precincts on election day.” The following explanation is taken directly from county documents, which include precinct-level data and can be viewed in full at the bottom of this article:

  • At four precincts, the equipment was configured correctly.
  • At four precincts, the touchscreens allowed voters to vote for [withdrawn candidate Don] Broussard. However, when the memory cards were uploaded to the central server, those votes were counted as blank because Broussard was marked as withdrawn.
  • At twenty-nine precincts, the votes below Broussard were “shifted upward”: a vote for Spears was recorded as a vote for [opponent Marshall] Orson, and a vote for Orson was recorded as a vote for Broussard. Then, when the memory cards were uploaded, the Orson votes marked as Broussard were counted as blank.
  • At three precincts, some of the votes were shifted and some were not: the Scott and Shamrock precincts each had two scanners, one which was correctly configured and one which was not. At Lakeside, a technical problem required some of the ballots to be brought back and scanned at the office. The ballots scanned at the polling place were shifted and the ballots scanned at the office were not.

Officials said there was only a 23-vote difference between the machine and hand counts, in terms of total ballots cast. Risk-limiting audits and other checks did not find any sign of the programming issues affecting other races on the May primary ballot.

“Although no hand count is perfect, after comparing the two counts, the certified hand count appears to be more than accurate enough to determine the outcome of the Commission District 2 race,” the report said.

“There was a large error introduced into the machine count by the ballot shift; but we do not see any evidence of other sources of error.”