Many who spoke complained of more issues in southern Fulton than were seen on the Northside. Officials say that’s because southern turnout was higher.
“What I witnessed myself was a tragedy,” said Khadijah Abdur-Rahman, Fulton commissioner-elect to represent a Southside district. “We look like the laughingstock when it comes to protecting voter rights, and we must do better.”
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Georgia's counties had to manage one crisis stacked on top of another — and did so after getting a new system of elections equipment from the state.
Considering it's the most populous county in the state, and with its history of election foul-ups, Fulton was always going to attract the most attention. And with everyone watching, it failed to competently adjust to precincts and poll workers dropping out over concerns from COVID-19.
Fulton’s current elections department head Richard Barron told the board that 10 precincts opened late on Tuesday, caused mostly by staff unable to work brand new voting machines. That caused lines to stay long, he said.
First-time poll worker Vanessa Kelly said during public comment that her precinct opened late because machines weren't working. She said she completed video training over the weekend after answering the county's emergency callout to hire 250 extra workers. She didn't get her assignment until 10:30 p.m. Monday.
Kelly said the older poll workers didn’t feel comfortable with the machines. One of the 90 techs the county hired to fix technical problems was there, but couldn’t solve the problem, she said. So she was given a voting scanner manual and told to troubleshoot the issue, which she did.
Barron said they intend to hire a consultant to review their procedures, specifically the backlog of absentee ballot applications that forced people to vote in-person. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger mailed absentee ballot request forms to the state's roughly 6.9 million voters in hopes of keeping people out of lines on Election Day.
READ | New machines, same pain for Fulton County voters
But Fulton's servers were overwhelmed with emailed applications, and many voters never got their ballots.
Barron said he will work with the county’s IT department to get an auto-confirmation for emails. Many voters never heard back from the county.
He said they’re planning a survey of poll workers. In addition, he wants to talk with activist and civic groups to get input and ask them to help the county sign up younger poll workers who are more tech-savvy.
But board member Vernetta Nuriddin wanted more from Barron and the lieutenants at his side, elections chief Blake Evans and registration chief Ralph Jones Sr.
“What I’m hearing from the three top leaders of the elections department is that the three of you don’t actually know what to do to fix it,” she said.
Most everyone who spoke said they wanted this issues fixed before the August runoff and November general elections.
“I was hoping that … (you three) would have some type of plan in place or contingency that we can speak on right now because we don’t have six more months to convene councils and task forces because we have an election in August and an early vote in July,” Nuriddin said.