It's not the first time Fulton's election tallying has kept voters up late. In April, when people nationally were watching the 6th District race that Karen Handel eventually won, final results came after 2 a.m. It was nearly 3:30 a.m. before city of South Fulton residents knew the results of their first election.
This time, Fulton posted its final update at 1:41 a.m. In Cobb, results were posted at 10:23 p.m. while in DeKalb, counting was finished at 11:23 p.m.
To be fair, polls in Fulton County were open until 8 p.m., when they closed at 7 p.m. everywhere else — except for Atlanta precincts in DeKalb County. Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections, said that discrepancy “made it look worse than normal.”
There were also problems getting all the votes tallied.
One group of results cards was dropped in a bin for cards that had already been uploaded, Barron said, and weren’t found until after midnight, when someone questioned why the precincts had not yet been counted.
At another location, a facility manager kicked poll workers out of the precinct before they could finish shutting down the voting machines, and they left without taking the cards. The machines were sealed, Barron said, but a crew had to be sent back to get the cards from the machines.
He also said that election managers had to manually update precinct totals, which do not update on their own in the software system.
Barron called the issues “a little frustrating,” saying that most of the votes were posted by 12:03 a.m.
“It would’ve been 11 o’clock in a regular election,” he said. “It’s better than we normally do.”
Twitter users struggled with the delay, especially after seeing decisions in the Virginia governor’s and New York mayor’s races posted much earlier in the night.
“WHYYYYYY is Fulton county the LAST county to STILL be tallying votes though?” tweeted @CangruuvAtl.
@BCP229 said, “In Atlanta, Tuesday may be Election Day, but Wednesday is always Results Day.”
And as Atlanta’s mayoral candidates’ parties started to clear out before results were known, @JohnRuchAtlanta, with the Reporter newspapers, wrote, “Metro ATL, where ‘Election Night party’ means ‘Sit around grousing about Fulton elections dep’t and go home guessing party.’”
“It’s a school night and Fulton won’t be done counting until next week,” @jsimpsonDC wrote.
Barron said the county had added an additional check-in location for poll workers to send their results from, in the hopes of reducing the amount of travel necessary across the long county. He also said there are steps he will take to try to improve the county’s results time going forward, including asking the legislature not to keep Atlanta polls open later than others’ in future elections.
While absentee ballots can be opened beginning at 7 a.m., Barron said early votes can’t be counted until polls close. He plans to ask the county attorney for permission to treat early votes — which took more than two hours to process — like absentee ballots, to begin counting them faster.
Barron said those who complain about issues of speed in tallying should volunteer themselves to help the process move faster.
“We need poll workers who are computer savvy, who know how to process things efficiently,” Barron said. “We’re going to try a couple new things.”
Arielle Kass covers Gwinnett County for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She started at the paper in 2010, and has covered business and local government beats around metro Atlanta. Arielle is a graduate of Emory University.