Fulton certifies January runoff, ending election cycle unlike any other

Fulton County elections workers open and sort ballots at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021.
Fulton County elections workers open and sort ballots at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021.

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

The Fulton County Board of Elections and Registration on Friday quickly certified the results of the Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoff election.

The unanimous vote closed what has been a rollercoaster ride of a 2020 elections cycle that asked voters to voice their opinions a half-dozen times.

On Friday, the Republican members of the board gave a list of things that need to be improved by the county.

Republicans of all levels, from President Donald Trump to the county’s GOP head, have said in varying degrees that the Democrat-run county needs to do things better.

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“Our job ... is to prevent one legal vote from being negated by an illegal vote,” said Mark Wingate, one of Republican members of the Fulton elections board.

“I don’t believe there’s any underlying massive amounts of fraud, however … there is clearly fraud in an election,” he said.

Dr. Kathleen Ruth, the other Republican-appointed board member, listed the needed improvements, which include: examining voter wait times, performing maintenance on the registered voter list, making all poll watchers/observers feel welcome, and ensuring that voters trust their mail-in ballots will get to them.

Democratic board member Aaron Johnson said he agreed with some of the items on the list of improvements, and disagreed with others.

Roughly 488,000 people voted in the January election, which is massive for a Senate runoff. It was nearly as large as the 528,000 votes cast in the November presidential election.

ExploreFulton responds to Trump’s criticism, says they’re ready for election

Elections workers have handled a lot this year. One of their own, 62-year-old Riverdale grandmother Beverly Walker, died in April from COVID-19. The virus upended all elections operations, which was seen during the debacle of a June election that had people waiting hours in line, some because they never received mail-in ballots after Fulton’s system was overwhelmed.

November was a much smoother election, but it took many community partners, like the Hawks and the Falcons offering their stadiums as polling locations.

Even still, the county has been the subject of aspersions from the highest office in the land. Trump has called out Fulton County by name many times, alleging fraud on the elections process in the very blue county he lost.

ExploreFulton pauses counting final ballots due to security concerns

Among the most notable happened on a call about two weeks ago in which Trump tried to convince Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the statewide election results. Fulton — home to a tenth of all Georgians — was mentioned by Trump 16 times during the call.

County officials have rebuked the claims.

Fulton spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said Fulton has received bomb threats and “endless comments” on social media alleging they committed fraud, which has been disproven.

The county delayed counting votes due to security concerns.

When asked why they had paused adjudication, Corbitt said: “We have a strong basis for concern based on security threats over recent weeks as well as awareness that there are people, including the President himself, who have singled out Fulton County as a cause for the outcome of the Presidential election.”

Trump — who lost Georgia by roughly 12,000 votes — will serve his last day in office Jan. 20.

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