Fulton election results come in before midnight, and other counties

Voters pondered the ballots at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta on Tuesday May 22, 2018. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Voters pondered the ballots at Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta on Tuesday May 22, 2018. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

At 20 seconds to midnight, Fulton County was done. A green pie chart tracking the number of precincts reported was all green, 100 percent. Election night ended Tuesday night. It didn't spill into Wednesday.

That wasn't the case last year, when it took until 2 a.m. before final results were posted in the heated Atlanta mayor's race in November. Or in April, when final results for the closely watched 6th District race that Karen Handel eventually won didn't come until later than that. In that same election, it was nearly 3:30 a.m. before residents in the new city of South Fulton learned the results of their first election.

Voters in neighboring counties didn’t have the same waits.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of Fulton voting

John Seydel is one of hundreds who have already voted at Sutton Middle School in Buckhead. He thinks everyone should vote “if we want to have our values translated through our decision makers.

For years, Fulton County election results have been a source of frustration, both for voters, who want to know how their candidate fared, and for the candidates themselves. This time, they got it right.

Richard Barron, the director of registration and elections, said his goal was to have all results up by 11 p.m. He didn’t quite make it, but by 11 p.m., 92 percent of Fulton precincts were in. In DeKalb County, it was 71 percent, while Cobb County had 73 percent reporting and Gwinnett had 82 percent in at 11 p.m.

In fact, Fulton finished before any of those counties. Gwinnett's final results were posted at 12:48 a.m. Cobb County posted their final update at 1:40 a.m. and DeKalb sent its last results at 2:02 a.m.

“Overall, I think we’re really happy with the way things went,” Barron said. “We have something to build on.”

More than 130,000 people case their ballots Wednesday, representing 19 percent of the electorate. In the December runoff — which also was counted before midnight — there were 113,364 votes cast. In the Atlanta mayor’s race, 87,357 voted; the number was about the same in the April 6th District race.

Fulton changed its processes for Tuesday evening, adding what Barron called election night assistants at most of the county’s precincts. The assistants — many of who are full-time county employees, including executives — helped with the close-out process, allowing poll managers to leave earlier with results.

Additionally, instead of uploading each card from each voting machine at check-in centers, poll workers loaded all the results onto one card at their precincts, for faster loading when they went to check in. Sebastian Brown, the poll manager at the East Roswell library, said that step saved him at least 20 minutes.

“It made a difference,” he said. “I think it should be permanent. It’s efficient.”

David Clark, the Fulton public works director who served as an election night assistant, said he found the process to be quick and smooth. He worked out of the St. James United Methodist Church in Buckhead, and said everything was shut down there 45 minutes after the polls closed. He said the process normally would take more than 30 minutes, with 16 voting machines to upload data from. This time, he was done in three.

“It was such a well-oiled machine,” he said. “It worked great.”

Barron said there was one machine at one precinct — where there wasn’t an election night assistant — that wasn’t uploaded onto the card with others from the precinct. Waiting for it to arrive at the elections warehouse caused some delay, he said, but he was happy with how quickly things moved.

“It was a major change in procedure on a major election, and it worked,” he said. “For a first run, it worked very well. We’ll definitely use this process from here on out.”