Some voters struggle to verify vote on state website

As millions of Georgians cast ballots ahead of Election Day, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger repeatedly tried to assure those nervous about election integrity that every vote counts. His office even offers an online tracker to let voters verify their ballot — whether submitted by mail or cast in person — has been accepted.

But some Georgians have had to wait days or weeks before the state’s My Voter Page site shows their ballot was received and accepted. In some instances, voters — some angry, some panicked — have contacted local election offices, insisting they cast a ballot and wanting to know why it’s not showing up on the state’s website.

A contractor who oversees the state’s voting system said he’s only heard of complaints from Fulton and DeKalb counties, but no one really knows how many voters have gone through this tortuous exercise. Problems have been reported across social media, while some voters have contacted The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Others have reported their problems to voting-security organizations like the Coalition for Good Governance, which is suing to block use of Georgia’s new electronic voting system.

The group said it has fielded and verified dozens of complaints from across the state, including Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Forsyth counties in metro Atlanta.

“I think the big issue is the extreme amount of anxiety this is causing,” said Aileen Nakamura, a volunteer for the group. “They are asking others on social media. Calling friends. Trying to call the county to get information that their vote counted. So many people see this as the most important election of their lifetimes."

Barbara Martin understands this stress. The Fulton County resident voted at the Alpharetta library on Oct. 19 and never doubted that her ballot would be accepted. After a social media post suggested she verify her ballot’s status on the My Voter Page site, she found no indication the ballot had been recorded.

Martin posted her concerns on her local Next Door site and checked with friends, who said their votes had been accepted. Her husband voted several days after her, and the state site showed that his ballot, too, had been received.

The thought that her ballot could be uncounted led to a sinking feeling.

“It was disbelief, but also rapidly turned into anger at the thought that after doing everything the right way, your vote didn’t count,” she said. “I was really mad.”

When she called Fulton’s election office Thursday, she was told no record existed of her vote being cast — and that others had reported similar issues.

When the AJC relayed her concerns to officials in the election office, they identified the problem and confirmed her ballot on Friday.

Fulton Election Supervisor Richard Barron said his office has fielded dozens of similar complaints from voters. Most cast ballots in the first days of early voting when the state’s voter registration database was sluggish and difficult to access for local election offices. A few locations, including the Alpharetta library, had internet connection problems later in the early voting period.

The breakdowns required election workers to check voters in on a separate voter roll system called EasyVote and later update the state’s ENET system, which powers the My Voter Page. Those local updates didn’t happen in some cases, Barron said, but it didn’t mean the ballots were rejected.

“If the vote is scanned at the location,” he said, "that means they’ve voted.”

Gabriel Sterling, the contractor in charge of implementing the new voting system for the secretary of state’s office, said Friday he blamed the issues with the My Voter Page on Fulton and DeKalb counties, not on the voting system or the state’s voter registration database.

“It’s just the poll workers not hitting ‘save,’” said Sterling. “It’s the poll workers not completing their jobs properly.”

Fulton and DeKalb are “the largest counties, so they’re going to have the weakest poll workers,” Sterling said.

The glitches in displaying voter information occurred amid broad uncertainty and doubt about the integrity of the 2020 election. The anxiety has been fueled by President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that he will lose only if voting is “rigged,” as well as by more legitimate concerns about voting-system security and disinformation campaigns by Russia and other foreign adversaries.

In Georgia, questions linger about recent elections after voter data was left unprotected on election servers and long lines at polling places spurred claims of voter suppression. More recently, as the AJC reported last weekend, officials have disregarded security warnings about the new voting system and have weakened safeguards from malicious intrusion.

Martin was relieved to learn Friday that her ballot had been received. She again is confident it will be counted.

But the experience was eye-opening, she said. If the state promotes a system to check your vote, she said, “it has to work."

“Yeah, my vote has been counted, but what a crazy process,” she said. “It doesn’t give you a lot of confidence. I think we could do better. I just hope everybody gets out there and votes.”

Barbara Martin of Alpharetta took this photo after she cast her ballot on Oct. 19 and texted it to friends. She sent this photo to Fulton election officials this week after she learned her ballot status was uncertain on the state's My Voter Page verification website. Fulton officials were able to update her status on Friday and verify that she had voted.

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