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Fulton County, Secretary of State spar over Election Day issues
by Angela Spencer and Rachel Kellogg
November 15, 2012 05:04 PM | 4012 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Election Day may have conjured many emotions for voters across Fulton County: Patriotism, sense of duty and possibly frustration.

While some precincts had reportedly short wait times and streamlined voting process, other voters had to wait for hours in line just to get to the front of the line and told they were not on the voter role.

Secretary of State displeased with county’s performance

“It’s very disappointing for myself and the voters in the state,” Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said on Election Day.

Kemp said in the days and weeks leading up to the election his office was assured Fulton County had everything under control, but once the polls opened the flood of emails, phone calls and social media responses showed a different story.

Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections has defended itself through several press conferences, saying despite a few problems the county conducted a successful election.

Interim Elections Director Sharon Mitchell said during a news conference televised live on Fulton County Government TV Thursday afternoon that “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.”

Fulton Elections defends itself

“We have had some characterizations of election as a debacle or fiasco,” Mitchell said. “We do not characterize it as such.”

Mitchell said the county’s election process actually started 21 days prior to Nov. 6’s general election, with early voting and receiving absentee ballots.

She 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.”

According to a press release issued Friday, the Fulton County elections’ department met the state required deadline to determine the disposition of all provisional ballots.

County: ‘Poll managers were confused’

One issue that may have contributed to some of the confusion in polls across the county was misunderstanding on the part of the precinct managers, Mitchell said. 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 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.”

‘Ushered’ ahead

When 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.”

What’s next?

On Election Night, Kemp said he does not want to have these problems in the future.

“This has been a problem in Fulton,” he said. “I’m looking at options to where we go in the future to get this resolved.”

Later in the week Mitchell said over the next month, all Fulton election processes will be reviewed.
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