No ‘chaos’ involving Georgia’s provisional ballot counts so far

Ongoing counts of provisional ballots cast Tuesday across Georgia show no unusually high numbers, despite warnings from civil rights groups predicting “chaos” about eligible citizens showing up but not finding their names on the voting rolls.

The largest counts of provisional ballots, not surprisingly, are in metro Atlanta: about 7,600 voters among five core counties. Numbers for other metro areas in Georgia were much smaller. Athens-Clarke County, for example, had about 100.

Voters in Fulton County cast the most, about 3,125 provisional ballots — a little more than 1 percent of all its voters.

Fulton Elections Director Richard Barron on Thursday called the number high but better than the county’s performance in the past. Fulton is still remembered by many for its 2012 election debacle that included missed deadlines, registered residents told they couldn’t vote and the casting of 9,600 provisional ballots — more than half of such ballots used across the state.

“The majority of our provisional ballots are from voters that voted out of precinct,” said Barron, who was hired last year. “We need to do a better job of informing voters of the importance of knowing where to vote on Election Day. Provisional voting is a longer process. Therefore, it produces longer lines.”

Overall, however, the counts across Georgia fell significantly below warnings of tens of thousands of voters that the groups cautioned could have appeared Tuesday. The alert came as some of the groups sued the state alleging more than 40,000 eligible voters were “missing” from the rolls despite making an effort to register this year.

A state judge dismissed the suit last week. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp called it frivolous. Local county officials — who in Georgia do much of the legwork managing elections — maintained they processed all eligible applications submitted to them.

Provisional ballots may be cast if a county has some question about a voter’s identification or status. Casting a provisional ballot requires the voter to provide additional information before his or her vote may be counted. Voters have three days after the election to provide that information to local registrars.

Critics of the system, including the groups that sued the state, say it is a hassle and may discourage otherwise eligible voters from taking the extra steps required to prove who they are or whether they should be eligible to vote.

There is no way to know how many potential voters may have declined provisional ballots Tuesday. Several groups monitoring the election Tuesday noted problems for some voters trying to confirm their registration status through the state’s online “my voter page.” The glitch did not affect the state’s computerized voting system.

Final numbers released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Election Protection hotline showed 1,833 calls from Georgia — about a quarter of them reported problems related to registration. Nationally, the hotline on Election Day logged more than 19,000 calls — about a 47 percent increase from the last midterm election in 2010.

The provisional ballot counts are unofficial until Kemp certifies the overall election results. That is expected to happen Tuesday.

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Provisional ballot counts so far for metro Atlanta’s major counties:Fulton: 3,125Gwinnett: 1,700Cobb: 1,620DeKalb: 1,032Clayton: 145