Fulton almost done counting absentee ballots, but provisional votes remain

Fulton elections head Richard Barron is applauded by workers on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 counting ballots at State Farm Arena. Fulton County officials say election workers have completed processing absentee-by-mail ballots. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said that 145,748 absentee-by-mail ballots have been processed. Of that, he said, results of 138,000 have been posted online and 1,200 more absentees that required more signature verification will come later today — meaning there’s a difference of roughly 7,000 between what’s been processed and what’s been posted. There are still 3,600 provisional ballots and an undetermined amount of military overseas ballots left to be finalized. The deadline for those is 5 p.m. Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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Fulton elections head Richard Barron is applauded by workers on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 counting ballots at State Farm Arena. Fulton County officials say election workers have completed processing absentee-by-mail ballots. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said that 145,748 absentee-by-mail ballots have been processed. Of that, he said, results of 138,000 have been posted online and 1,200 more absentees that required more signature verification will come later today — meaning there’s a difference of roughly 7,000 between what’s been processed and what’s been posted. There are still 3,600 provisional ballots and an undetermined amount of military overseas ballots left to be finalized. The deadline for those is 5 p.m. Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

After almost three day of painstaking tallying, Fulton County had posted the results from nearly all of its 145,000 absentee-by-mail ballots by 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Millions across this nation have been anxiously watching Fulton’s results because as a Democratic stronghold — where mail-in ballots favored Biden by nearly 80 percent — voters here may very well determine who will sit in the Oval Office, and possibly decide the balance of the U.S. Senate.

But not all of the county’s work was completed Thursday. There are still 3,600 provisional ballots and an undetermined amount of military/overseas ballots left to be finalized. The deadline for those is 5 p.m. Friday.

ExploreFulton, other metro Atlanta counties continuing counting votes

Fulton officials faced a wall of reporters from all over the world that had formed inside a State Farm Arena suite and said at 1 p.m. Thursday that they had finished processing the 145,748 mail-in ballots.

“We rose to the occasion,” Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said.

Fulton had some challenges, including at least a two-hour delay early on Election Day when counting stopped because a water pipe burst inside a ballot processing room.

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Fulton County election workers were hard at it again on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 counting ballots at State Farm Arena. Fulton County officials say election workers have completed processing absentee-by-mail ballots. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said that 145,748 absentee-by-mail ballots have been processed. Of that, he said, results of 138,000 have been posted online and 1,200 more absentees that required more signature verification will come later today — meaning there’s a difference of roughly 7,000 between what’s been processed and what’s been posted. There are still 3,600 provisional ballots and an undetermined amount of military overseas ballots left to be finalized. The deadline for those is 5 p.m. Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Fulton County election workers were hard at it again on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 counting ballots at State Farm Arena. Fulton County officials say election workers have completed processing absentee-by-mail ballots. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said that 145,748 absentee-by-mail ballots have been processed. Of that, he said, results of 138,000 have been posted online and 1,200 more absentees that required more signature verification will come later today — meaning there’s a difference of roughly 7,000 between what’s been processed and what’s been posted. There are still 3,600 provisional ballots and an undetermined amount of military overseas ballots left to be finalized. The deadline for those is 5 p.m. Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Fulton County election workers were hard at it again on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020 counting ballots at State Farm Arena. Fulton County officials say election workers have completed processing absentee-by-mail ballots. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said that 145,748 absentee-by-mail ballots have been processed. Of that, he said, results of 138,000 have been posted online and 1,200 more absentees that required more signature verification will come later today — meaning there’s a difference of roughly 7,000 between what’s been processed and what’s been posted. There are still 3,600 provisional ballots and an undetermined amount of military overseas ballots left to be finalized. The deadline for those is 5 p.m. Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

There was also a COVID-19 outbreak at the elections warehouse that started two weeks ago in which more than 25 of the 60 workers have tested positive. Two still remain in the ICU. One administrative elections worker tested positive Wednesday, said County elections chief Richard Barron.

“It is definitely not the flu,” he said. “It ripped through the warehouse in days.”

Barron, wearing the same blue suit and white shirt he was wearing Wednesday, said he and his staff worked straight through the night.

The push for mailed ballots came after COVID-19 disrupted life in Georgia.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in April decided to mail absentee ballot request forms to the state’s roughly 6.9 million voters as a way to keep people out of lines on Election Day.

Before the pandemic, Fulton had been expecting 1,000 absentee ballot requests — but was walloped with more than 145,000.

These mail-in ballots will likely account for roughly 28% of Fulton’s vote total.

In the 2018 general election, 6% of all ballots statewide were mailed. During the June primary this year? Half of all ballots were mailed.

Most experts laud mail-in vote counting process as transparent and fair. But they take longer to finalize because they involve humans who either don’t read instructions or don’t correctly fill out the form. That required a bipartisan process to sort out the voter’s intent.

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11/05/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Gabriel McGee-Smoot, 8, shows support for President Donald Trump by holding a sign during a rally outside of State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, November 5, 2020. Inside State Farm Arena, workers were busy finishing up the process of counting ballots from Fulton County voters. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

11/05/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Gabriel McGee-Smoot, 8, shows support for President Donald Trump by holding a sign during a rally outside of State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, November 5, 2020. Inside State Farm Arena, workers were busy finishing up the process of counting ballots from Fulton County voters. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
11/05/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Gabriel McGee-Smoot, 8, shows support for President Donald Trump by holding a sign during a rally outside of State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, November 5, 2020. Inside State Farm Arena, workers were busy finishing up the process of counting ballots from Fulton County voters. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

But not everyone was happy with the county’s efforts to count the votes on Thursday.

A group of about 100 pro-Trump protestors gathered outside State Farm Arena excoriating Fulton’s management of the election and chanting “Four more years!”

President Trump’s campaign has filed suit in three states, including one in Georgia that was dismissed Thursday, to disrupt the counting of votes.

But Barron said counting of provisional and military ballots would continue Friday.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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Gwinnett County may be counting ballots through the weekend

Credit: WSBTV Videos