Fulton elections director confident for Tuesday presidential primary

Richard Barron is sick of talking about the past.

Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections, knows the litany of problems county voters faced in 2012. Nearly 10,000 residents had to cast provisional ballots because their names weren’t on registration lists at the polls. Hundreds of ballots were mishandled. The ballots of 11 eligible voters were improperly rejected. And that’s just the beginning.

Since the issues in 2012, Barron said, the county has successfully administered 22 elections. He’s confident that Fulton has made the changes needed ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary.

“Really, those old problems, we haven’t had any of them,” he said. “I’m at the point where I’m done talking about what happened in 2012.”

Last year, Fulton County was ordered to pay $180,000 in civil penalties and to reimburse the state for the cost of investigating the earlier problems.

Most of the issues, Barron said, were related not keeping voter rolls updated. More workers were hired, eliminating the backlog.

Additionally, the county has shifted to training poll workers in person, instead of online. Stability in his office — and the change in management that brought him to its helm — have also had a positive impact, he said.

“We will have already had a larger turnout that we’re going to have Tuesday, and we already had that without any issues. We did fine with that one,” Barron said. “I’m not foreseeing that we’re going to have issues.”

Barron had hoped that extended early voting would further reduce the election day pressure. While early voting picked up last week, and more than 37,000 people cast their ballots before election day, it was still below what he wanted.

During early voting, which ended Friday, residents can vote at any polling location. But on election day, those at the wrong precinct must leave and go to the correct one or cast provisional votes.

“People tend to try to vote outside their precinct,” Barron said. “It causes us to have to deal with a lot of provisional ballots.”

And for each one, a poll worker must help the individual voter, delaying the process for others.

Lines likely will be longer on election day than they were during early voting, but should move quickly, Barron said.

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