“We have had some characterizations of election as a debacle or fiasco,” Interim Elections Director Sharon Mitchell said during a news conference televised live on Fulton County Government TV Thursday afternoon. “We do not characterize it as such.”
Mitchell went onto say that the county's election process actually started 21 days prior to Nov. 6's general election, with early voting and receiving absentee ballots.
Mitchell said the department had “21 days of good election process,” and though there were “challenges on Election Day, it, overall, was indeed a good election process.”
Mitchell also addressed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's recent comments of disapproval about the department's performance; Kemp told a Neighbor reporter Nov. 7 that Fulton's election was “very disappointing” and an “unfortunate situation.”
But Mitchell said, “our department has been in constant contact with the Secretary of State department” but not with Kemp himself. She said the communications with the department have been “collaborative” and “helpful.”
The interim director, who has only been on the job for six weeks, said the two departments were in meetings together most of the day Thursday.
A total of about 11,000 provisional ballots were issued in Fulton's election, a jump from the 3,800 that were issued in 2008's election.
Mitchell said all these votes should be processed by Friday, Nov. 9, and that half were processed by the time of the news conference.
She pointed out that the department had enough poll workers and machines and said polls opened and closed at the correct time.
But criticisms arose because many voters throughout the area had to wait two to three hours to vote. And there were reports that some voters who did not appear in Fulton's system waited about eight hours to be issued a provisional ballot.
Mitchell said all of these provisional ballots, which were issued to voters whose names did not show up in Fulton County's system, will be counted after every voter who submitted one is determined an eligible voter.
In many cases, the voters were registered and listed with the Secretary of State's elections department.
Polling managers at every precinct were given supplemental lists to verify voters who did not immediately appear in the system.
Though the polling managers went through the necessary training, Mitchell said some of them “did not understand the process.” Responding to a question about the eight-hour wait experienced at Venetian Hills Elementary School and long waits for provisional ballots in general, Mitchell said, “certainly that was not acceptable … a number of actions by our poll managers were not acceptable actions.”
Dwight Brower, Fulton elections chief, said the poll workers all received four hours of training — two hours of online material and two hours of hands-on learning.
Mitchell said over the next month, all Fulton election processes will be reviewed.
Asked about a visit to a north Fulton precinct by the world-famous singer and Alpharetta resident Usher, Mitchell said it was arranged ahead of time for the celebrity to skip ahead of the line, vote and leave — upsetting some residents who were waiting in line.
Mitchell said, “It was better to not have a celebrity create a distraction [by being] in line.”
Mitchell said the problems the department had this election were not the same problems from the last presidential election, and she noted that other large counties across the country had similar problems.
“Our expectation is one of excellence,” she said. “We did not have the challenges we had in 2008.”