Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron. (ARIELLE KASS/AKASS@AJC.COM AJC File Photo)

Unresolved annexations could mean some in Fulton County vote twice

Some South Fulton residents may be asked to fill out their ballots twice on Nov. 8.

That’s because with a pending lawsuit about Atlanta’s annexation of their neighborhood, Loch Lomond, whether or not they live in the city is unclear. And depending on where they live, they would cast their ballots for different issues.

The best solution, according to a draft proposal, may be to let residents vote twice — then only count one ballot, depending on where they end up.

The order is not yet final, but it has already sent Fulton County scrambling to figure out what to do. The county’s Board of Registration and Election called an emergency meeting to figure out “an appropriate response to the emergency of a pending court order” dealing with the election, according to a notice.

Members agreed to try to intervene with the proposal, though what solution they might propose is unclear. Board Chair Mary Carole Cooney said the board would seek an expedited hearing before Fulton County Chief Judge Gail Tusan, and would try to have a conference with her to discuss the case.

Thursday, the county filed a request to be involved in the case, saying if it was not a party, its “ability to comply with Georgia election law, the Georgia Constitution and the United States Constitution” would be impeded.

Richard Barron, Fulton’s elections director, said he isn’t sure if the proposed order would be legal. State law requires voters to cast ballots on voting machines, and to use provisional paper ballots if they think they are registered, but they don’t show up on the list at their precincts. There is no provision, he said, to give voters more than one ballot. The county’s brief said it “would need to seek authorization of any alternate voting process with the Georgia Secretary of State” to make sure it was legal.

“There are too many pitfalls in that process,” Barron said. “In 16 years, I’ve never been asked to give two ballots to people, and figure out which one counts later.”

Barron said the affected area includes 325 registered voters.

If they end up in Atlanta, they will vote on two transportation bills — one that increases sales taxes by half a penny for MARTA expansion, and another that raises sales taxes by four-tenths of a penny for other transportation improvements.

If they aren’t in the city, they’ll vote on a different transportation tax — one that raises the sales tax by three-quarters of a penny for transportation improvements. A referendum on whether to form a new city, the City of South Fulton, will also be on the ballot.

A spokesperson for the city of Atlanta declined to comment. This is one of several lawsuits involving annexations in unincorporated South Fulton.

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