Fulton notches another sound election two years after embarrassment

An election worker checks memory card bag contained votes at Fulton County Election Preparation Center on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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An election worker checks memory card bag contained votes at Fulton County Election Preparation Center on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Fulton County held a quiet election this week, which is in stark contrast to the disastrous primary two years ago that saw long lines of disgruntled voters.

This primary cycle in Fulton drew 91,000 people who voted early and more than 69,000 who voted in person on Tuesday, many of whom were brought to the polls by the Republican U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial contests.

Nadine Williams, Fulton’s interim elections director, had said Tuesday that she expected the results online by 10:30 a.m. That didn’t happen, which isn’t uncommon for Fulton or other metro counties. On Wednesday morning, county spokeswoman Regina Waller said she expected a complete report by 1 p.m. Then she said 5 p.m. The results were posted 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The delay was caused, Waller said, because teams had to rescan early voting results from C.T. Martin Recreation Center and New Beginnings Senior Center. The cards from a scanner at each had “an upload error,” according to Williams.

Democratic and Republican observers watched the rescanning process. She also said that to declare all precincts reporting, crews had to collect memory cards with zero votes along with memory cards from scanners not used.

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Every mistake is heightened when the state is investigating the county for elections mismanagement.

The Republican-led state via the State Elections Board launched an investigation into how Fulton runs its elections after the rough 2020 primary. They gained that investigative power under Senate Bill 202, a new set of laws passed by the GOP-helmed state legislature.

Democrats say the bill limits voting and a state takeover of the Democrat-heavy county could endanger fair elections, but Republicans argue the bill safeguards the vote while causing turnout to surge.

Tuesday’s hiccups were “fairly minor” and likely aren’t enough new ammunition for the Republican-led state to chastise Fulton for another bad election, according to University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

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Still, he said, the state is likely to seize on anything to gain political points against the Democratic stronghold.

“If they’re trying to build the case for why they should supplant the Fulton County (elections) board, they’ll reach way back and say this is a continuing saga that never ends,” he said.

Bullock said that, if there’s going to be a problem, of course it would be in Fulton due to its size. Fulton, with its 250 precincts, is home to 1 out of every 10 Georgians.

The Secretary of State’s Office, which isn’t quick to compliment Fulton, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Nadine Williams, interim elections chief, speaks to members of the press as Cathy Woolard (left), chairwoman, looks on at Fulton County Election Preparation Center on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Nadine Williams, interim elections chief, speaks to members of the press as Cathy Woolard (left), chairwoman, looks on at Fulton County Election Preparation Center on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Nadine Williams, interim elections chief, speaks to members of the press as Cathy Woolard (left), chairwoman, looks on at Fulton County Election Preparation Center on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

“Overall, Fulton County Elections had a great day yesterday,” Waller wrote. “Moving forward, the county will continue working to make sure that the election process flows smoothly. The county will also continue to work with the State to ensure that all Fulton County voters receive the best voting experience.”

It was a very different day two years ago when a primary moved back due to the onset of COVID-19 yielded massive lines and mailed ballots that didn’t reach voters. It was a national embarrassment for Fulton.

Since then there have been several clean elections, but the state has continued to probe Fulton’s elections.

Not much about the investigation is clear. But it seems Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican detractor of Fulton elections, may continue running Georgia’s elections — he won his primary Tuesday, with 6.5% of his votes coming from Fulton alone.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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Ga. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wins Republican primary for re-election

Credit: WSBTV Videos