People lined up for early voting Thursday at the Cobb County West Park Government Center in Marietta. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Thousands of voter registrations await processing in Georgia

More than 7,000 voter registration applications in metro Atlanta still hadn’t been processed as of Monday, nearly two weeks after the deadline to register to vote and one week since in-person early voting began.

County election officials said they expect the backlog to be cleared this week, but it takes time to review each voter registration form.

New voters whose registrations haven’t been processed can cast provisional ballots that will be counted if their information is verified, or they can wait at early-voting sites for election officials to complete their registrations.

Registration forms were awaiting processing Monday in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, according to ProGeorgia, a nonprofit organization focused on voter engagement and civic participation. Clayton and Gwinnett counties had processed all their voter registration forms.

Leaders of several advocacy groups said all registrations should have been processed before in-person early voting started statewide on Oct. 15. The voter registration deadline was Oct. 9.

“These voters were able to meet the deadline of being able to vote on time, and they should be able to cast a regular ballot,” said Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director for the Georgia Association for Latino Elected Officials. “Counties should have been prepared to efficiently process the forms as necessary.”

record number of Georgians are registered to vote this year — more than 6.9 million, compared with 6.7 million on Election Day in 2016.

In Fulton County, there were 4,784 pending registration applications Monday morning, Elections Director Rick Barron said. That’s down from 40,319 applications awaiting processing Oct. 13.

“You have to go through every one,” Barron said. “It just takes time. The priority is mainly to get the paper applications done first because if somebody comes in during early voting, it’s hard to look those ones up.”

Voter registration applications filed online can be looked up more quickly by election officials at early-voting sites, Barron said. Georgians whose applications are verified can become active registered voters on the spot.

At times, 40 people have been entering voter registration applications into computers, working on the weekends and after hours, Barron said. He said all of Fulton’s backlog should be cleared by Tuesday morning.

Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said it’s normal for election officials to need time to process registration applications during election years.

There were about 2,500 registrations pending in Cobb on Monday.

She said no voters are being turned away.

“We can see it in the system, as long as the voter is able to wait for us to do that,” Eveler said. “It doesn’t take all that long.”

Provisional ballots will be automatically verified based on driver’s license records, she said. Voters who cast provisional ballots don’t need to take any action to confirm their identities if driver’s license information checks out.

County election officials must process registration applications accurately and efficiently, said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Election officials should have done more to prevent problems with voter registrations and avoid having to issue provisional ballots, said Helen Butler, the executive director for the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, a civil rights group.

“Provisional ballots don’t always cut the mustard. They don’t always get counted,” Butler said. “It really should have been done before early voting began.”

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