Problems with the state’s new election software mean thousands of metro Atlanta residents don’t know where they’re supposed to vote just two weeks before Election Day.
About 20,000 Fulton County residents still haven’t received notices letting them know where they’re supposed to vote, and hundreds more may have been told to go to the wrong precinct. Cobb County also is late to tell some Marietta and Kennesaw residents about election changes that affect them. Officials in DeKalb and Gwinnett also have reported problems with the state software.
Fulton and Cobb expect to mail “precinct cards” later this week – long after the state-mandated deadline of Oct. 7. But the delays have Atlanta officials worried that thousands of voters could show up at the wrong precinct on Election Day. The city may send its own precinct cards to ensure voters get the word.
“The last thing you want is someone going to a location they’re familiar with and it’s closed, because you have a likelihood of someone throwing up their hands and saying, `forget it,’” said Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who faces challengers Ricardo Mosby and Duwon “Mooley” Robinson in the Nov. 5 election.
Jared Thomas, a spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, acknowledged there have been problems with the new software. But he characterized them as minor.
“There have been a few bumps in the process,” he said. “We are all working together on this to get it fixed.”
The overdue precinct cards are the latest glitch local election officials have attributed to the state’s new ElectioNet software. During early voting for last month’s Macon-Bibb County elections, dozens of voters cast ballots in the wrong county commission races, and there were long lines on Election Day as poll workers checked voter addresses.
Local elections officials say entering data into the new system is cumbersome. And they say the software puts streets and houses in the wrong voting districts – many of which have changed because of redistricting following the 2010 census.
Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said software glitches caused the county’s late precinct cards. The cards are mailed to new voters, those who change addresses and those who must be notified of new precincts and voting districts brought about by redistricting.
Barron said his staff found numerous errors in data obtained from the Secretary of State.
He said his staff checked all 156,000 precinct cards to be mailed this month and decided not to send about 20,000 suspect notices. He said hundreds of voters also have received notices with incorrect information, though he did not know exactly how many.
Barron said the county will mail corrected notices as soon as Wednesday.
Cobb County also is late with some precinct cards. Elections director Janine Eveler said the county will mail notices voters to two precincts in Marietta and five in Kennesaw this week. She didn’t know how many notices were late.
Elections directors in DeKalb and Gwinnett reported catching incorrect information before precinct cards were mailed.
DeKalb Elections Director Maxine Daniels said the Secretary of State’s office also incorrectly sent DeKalb tens of thousands of precinct cards for voters who were moved to inactive status and did not need to receive new cards. And she said her office isn’t able to produce voter registration statistics because the state data has incorrectly placed some out-of-county voters in DeKalb.
“No, Alpharetta is not in DeKalb County,” Daniels said.
The state spent $2.6 million to upgrade its election software from the 1995 system it previously used. Thomas, the Secretary of State spokesman, said the agency expected some problems with migrating more than 6 million voter registrations from 159 counties to the new system.
As to the late precinct cards, Thomas said: “It’s unfortunate that some counties are a little later than they’d like to be with precinct cards. We’re all committed to success.”
Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who faces challenger Rachele Fruit, worries what the errors will mean for election day results. He’s concerned that confusion at the polls could affect tight races and lead to legal challenges.
“This is a significant issue for all candidates, but certainly those who are in close races,” Mitchell said.
“We’ve got to get this resolved,” he added. “My hope is that the Secretary of State and Fulton County are really working together on this, and we’re doing everything we can to help (them) get this right.”