Fulton certifies rocky election results; commissioner contests race

Mail-in paper ballots wait to be scanned by Fulton County employees at the Georgia World Congress Center during last week’s Georgia primary elections. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Mail-in paper ballots wait to be scanned by Fulton County employees at the Georgia World Congress Center during last week’s Georgia primary elections. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The Fulton County elections board on Friday certified the results of its rocky June 9 election.

It took the elections board three hours because of confusion about numbers not adding up. Board member Vernetta Nuriddin said she received 164 pages about 30 minutes before the meeting.

Fulton’s director of registration and elections Richard Barron said 233,409 people voted. More than 92,000 of those were mailed ballots. For comparison: That number during the 2016 presidential primary was 947 — meaning this year was an increase of nearly 10,000%.

Basically, being ordered to run a new type of election on the fly challenged many counties, but none as much as Fulton.

READ | Virus, lack of preparation lead to Fulton County election disaster

A lot happened since early voting started May 18: A reduced Fulton elections staff overwhelmed by a historic number of absentee-by-mail applications and restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic caused a cascade that forced many to vote in person because they never received their mailed ballots as the state intended. Hourslong lines formed at some precincts because of the increased turnout — aided by a recent spike of civic engagement — and poll workers who, due to the coronavirus, never trained in person to use brand new equipment.

It was another embarrassing day for Fulton elections. The issues are being investigated by multiple bodies, including the secretary of state's office. Legislators have proposed laws that would rebuild the elections board and take the power to appoint an elections board chairperson away from the Fulton Board of Commissioners.

“There are times when heads should roll … but this is not one of them in my judgment,” said Fulton commission chairman Robb Pitts, whose elections task force met for the first time Thursday.

Barron and elections board chair Mary Carole Cooney told commissioners Wednesday that equipment selected and purchased by the state malfunctioned on election day. But poll workers also made many simple errors, like plugging too many machines into a single electrical breaker.

READ | New machines, same pain for Fulton County voters

“I just don’t believe that the two of you realize that amount of mistrust in Fulton County government that you all have created based on your performance,” Commissioner Joe Carn said to Barron and Cooney.

Carn is contesting in court that his victorious opponent doesn't live in the district she ran to represent. Khadijah Abdur-Rahman strongly rebuked the claim at a Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday. She said during public comment that Carn was playing politics by saying she doesn't live at her Southwest Atlanta home.

“I’ve got 19,926 people who say I do,” she said. That’s how many votes Abdur-Rahman received, according to initial vote tallies, meaning she beat Carn by 4,500 votes.

Rules require candidates to live in their district for 12 months prior to the election. Abdur-Rahman filed to run for the District 6 seat in March. She said she was living at a home on Cativo Drive, which is in District 6. But the suit Carn filed alleges that she lives at another home, on Linkwood Road in District 4, and that house has a homestead exemption.

The exemption reduces the amount of taxes someone has to pay on a home. "The home must be your legal residence for all purposes including the registration of your vehicles and the filing of your Federal and Georgia income tax returns," according to the Fulton tax assessors website.

Abdur-Rahman said Wednesday that all her information was registered to the Cativo Drive house.