Opinion: Power Poll: Many leaders are voting before Nov. 3

Most metro Atlanta community leaders are voting in person in the General Election and are evenly split on whether ballots cast by mail will be counted accurately.

Sixty-six percent of respondents to the latest Atlanta Power Poll said they will be casting their ballots in-person either in advance or on Nov. 3, Election Day. The rest say they are voting by mail in what is on track to be a record-shattering election for participation here and nationally.

October 12, 2020 Atlanta: Voters finally got to the machines after a glitch forestalled voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Eager Georgia voters swarmed to polling places Monday morning, waiting in lines created by high turnout and technical problems at the start of three weeks of early voting before Election Day. A glitch with voter check-in computers held up voters at Georgia’s largest early voting site at State Farm Arena. Lines stopped after voters received an “invalid card” error when inserting green voter access cards into touchscreens. Poll workers had to reboot the arena’s 60 voter check-in tablets and re-import voter information, said Fulton Elections Director Richard Barron. “We apologize to all the voters,” Barron said. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
October 12, 2020 Atlanta: Voters finally got to the machines after a glitch forestalled voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Eager Georgia voters swarmed to polling places Monday morning, waiting in lines created by high turnout and technical problems at the start of three weeks of early voting before Election Day. A glitch with voter check-in computers held up voters at Georgia’s largest early voting site at State Farm Arena. Lines stopped after voters received an “invalid card” error when inserting green voter access cards into touchscreens. Poll workers had to reboot the arena’s 60 voter check-in tablets and re-import voter information, said Fulton Elections Director Richard Barron. “We apologize to all the voters,” Barron said. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Power Poll is part of a nationwide, monthly survey that asks community leaders for their opinions on important local issues – including voting and the potential for miscounted votes and fraud.

The latest survey was taken Oct. 19 to Oct. 22 and follows weeks of partisan back-and-forth about the integrity of this year’s elections, especially mail-in votes. President Donald Trump has called voting by mail “corrupt” and fraught with “forgeries, in many cases.”

Sent via email to 889 metro Atlanta business, political, and community leaders, the survey does not have the precision of a scientific poll. It is meant to provide insight into the thinking of metro leaders, 138 or 15.52% of whom responded.

All poll respondents said they will be voting in this year’s General Election, with about 59% opting for early, in-person voting, 34% casting mail-in ballots, and 6.5% planning to be at the polls on Election Day.

Several wrote emails to Power Poll, expressing their feelings about the importance of voting and about the need for an election system that is free of inaccuracies and fraud.

“The right to vote in a free and fair election is the most basic civil right,” Thomas Noonan, founding partner of TechOperators, said. “Election integrity is essential and hopefully assured by our state’s photo ID requirement.”

Kevin Green, president and CEO of Midtown Alliance, said the ability to vote and have that vote counted "is the bedrock of a working democracy.

“We need to focus our voting laws and processes on right or wrong – versus right or left,” he said.

October 12, 2020 Atlanta: Big Marquee billboard fanfare greeter voters on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Eager Georgia voters swarmed to polling places Monday morning, waiting in lines created by high turnout and technical problems at the start of three weeks of early voting before Election Day. A glitch with voter check-in computers held up voters at Georgia’s largest early voting site at State Farm Arena. Lines stopped after voters received an “invalid card” error when inserting green voter access cards into touchscreens. Poll workers had to reboot the arena’s 60 voter check-in tablets and re-import voter information, said Fulton Elections Director Richard Barron. “We apologize to all the voters,” Barron said. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com).
October 12, 2020 Atlanta: Big Marquee billboard fanfare greeter voters on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 at State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta. Eager Georgia voters swarmed to polling places Monday morning, waiting in lines created by high turnout and technical problems at the start of three weeks of early voting before Election Day. A glitch with voter check-in computers held up voters at Georgia’s largest early voting site at State Farm Arena. Lines stopped after voters received an “invalid card” error when inserting green voter access cards into touchscreens. Poll workers had to reboot the arena’s 60 voter check-in tablets and re-import voter information, said Fulton Elections Director Richard Barron. “We apologize to all the voters,” Barron said. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com).

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

On issues of ballot integrity, community leaders were asked about their level of confidence in Georgia’s ability to accurately count what is expected to be a massive and unprecedented number of mail-in votes. Of those who responded, 35% said they expect the state’s election system to be “challenged,” and another nearly 9% said they see the potential for the system to break, leaving the outcomes of the elections unclear.

The rest expect problems, or “hiccups” but expect them to be short-lived. Forty-one percent said they expect a positive result, and 15% said “all should be good shortly after the election.”

When it comes to the issue of their specific ballot, less than 19 percent of poll respondents said they have serious concerns about it being accurately counted. About a third said they had “some” concerns, and roughly 49 percent said they have little or no worries that their ballot will be correctly counted.

On the broader issue of access to voting, respondents were split, with 35% saying voting should be no more difficult than filing taxes. The rest were evenly divided on whether the priority should be eliminating fraud or easier voting or whether an election system needs to be in place that still requires some effort by citizens to vote.

Steve Teske, chief judge of Clayton County Juvenile Court, said he is not worried about fraud in mail-in voting, despite the allegations of the Trump administration.

“There will always be some risk to voting by mail, but it is so small that more weight should be placed on increasing voting rather than tempering it by unfounded fears,” Teske wrote in an email.

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, said that "just like COVID--19 has placed the spotlight on the reliability of the public health system in Georgia, so too has this complicated election year raised the visibility of fair and secure election processes.

I am hopeful that we will learn valuable lessons on how to protect our voting privilege, the most sacred right our democracy provides each and every one of us," Robinson said.

ExploreEarly voting information in metro Atlanta, including wait times for voting lines
ExploreAJC Voter Guide for the Georgia Election

In their own words:

Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, District 7 member of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners: “As an elected official, I have extreme concerns about the 2020 General Election. As people across the U.S. vote in record numbers and a staggering amount of absentee ballots have been requested, I fear people who wait to mail-in ballots will not be counted. Some DeKalb residents have seen three weeks between when an absentee ballot was postmarked and actually arrived at their home. So, I strongly encourage the use of drop boxes for the return of absentee ballots and suggest in-person voting when possible. As November 3rd approaches, I fear our postal system will be overrun with last-minute ballots, and these ballots could have major consequences on the outcome of the election if not counted in large numbers across the U.S.”

Thomas Noonan, founding partner of TechOperators: “Voting is a special privilege which we all take very seriously; The right to vote in a free and fair election is the most basic civil right. Election integrity is essential and hopefully assured by our state’s photo ID requirement.”

Kelly Walsh, District 1 Decatur City Commissioner: “Georgians are demonstrating a strong desire to vote and be counted. Unfortunately, the number and placement of election polling sites has not kept pace with the growth of registered voters. This has led to a new level of voter suppression because access has been so delimited and favors certain areas over others.”

Mark Fogas, Epsilon executive vice president: "Sadly, the political environment has devolved into being focused on winning and consolidating power. As such, it has become challenging to get past the “messaging as a weapon” approach which has seemingly become the norm. This messaging approach attempts more than anything to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the electorate around our systems of government. Neither side is absent some responsibility in perpetuating the seeds of division that permeate our communities, state, and nation. We all have a lot of work to do to become “a more perfect union” and it starts with expression through voting. I am confident that while the systems that work to ensure 100% accuracy in voting are not perfect, we can rest assured that the ability to count votes is just as good this year as it has always been."

Michael Garrett, Clayton County State Court judge: “Voter fraud is rare. Election official mistakes are plentiful. Let’s focus on what is really going wrong. A prevalence of under-qualified election officials across the state of Georgia.”

THE SURVEY RESPONSES

A lot of controversy and debate have surrounded the reliability of the election system for 2020. How much concern do you have about whether your vote will be accurately counted?

A lot — 5.80%

A significant amount — 12.32%

Some — 33.33%

Not a lot — 31.88%

None — 16.67%

How confident do you feel about Georgia’s ability to accurately count mailed-in ballots?

Confident: All should be good shortly after the election — 15.22%

Mostly confident: We may see some hiccups, but it will work out in the end — 41.30%

Concerned: Such a large number of mailed-in ballots will challenge the system — 34.78%

Very concerned: The system will break, and the outcome of the elections in Georgia will be unclear — 8.70%

How have you or how do you intend to vote this year?

Mailing in my ballot — 34.06%

Early voting in person — 59.42%

Voting on election day — 6.52%

Not voting — 0.00%

Generally speaking, what are your views on access to voting?

It is more important to eliminate fraud than provide easier voting — 20.29%

It is fine to keep rules in place, assuring that citizens put some effort into voting — 21.74%

It is more important to have universal voting than to eliminate 100 percent of fraud — 22.46%

Voting should be no harder than filing taxes, at your own place, online, and with maximum ease — 35.51%

In Other News