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Deadline looms for new elections czar
by Noreen Cochran
September 11, 2013 11:23 AM | 3962 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fulton County is on track to meet a Saturday deadline, new Director of Registration and Elections Richard Barron told the board of commissioners last week, despite delays and challenges in fixing mistakes on the voter rolls.

Barron came on board in June, taking over from interim Director Sharon Mitchell.

Barron inherited a voter registration list plagued by misinformation, including missing voters, wrong addresses and wrong precincts, a situation coming to a head in the 2012 election and leading to former Director Sam Westmoreland’s resignation.

Commission Chairman John Eaves asked for an update on preparations for the upcoming mayor and city council elections, which the county will administrate with a $2.4 million budget, down from $9 million in 2012.

Commission Vice Chair Emma Darnell summed up Barron’s task.

“The whole point is to ensure that your records and the state’s records are the same with respect to addresses and names,” she said.

Barron said a change by the secretary of state’s office in voter registration software, close to his start date, swamped his department as they sought to complete that task.

“Fulton County moved from Legacy to ElectioNet towards the end of June and early July,” he said about voter registration software, now provided by Bloomfield, Conn.-based Polycentric Cloud Technology Group. “We’ve had to go through a lot of steps in the meantime to make it to a point where we can begin to fix many of the issues in our own database.”

Those issues, besides the corrections already needing attention, included accurate voter records subject to further errors, Barron said, and other mistakes yet to be found.

“There could be annexations that may occur. Street names may change. When the data migrates, you can have spaces put in voter names and it kicks them out. There could be misspellings. We may have a voter in an incorrect precinct. Maybe the boundary lines we have are different than what the city thinks they have,” Barron said.

Barron blamed the state and the vendor for compounding the situation, including a delay for four cities that went through redistricting – Milton, Sandy Springs, East Point and Atlanta – adding to an already massive backlog.

“They kept telling us they were going to come up with a fix. That fix never happened. So we wasted two to three weeks working on our exceptions,” he said. “So Fulton County, basically, got hit with the bill for fixing those 13,000 voter records. Thankfully, we had a lot of temporaries come on last week and we were able to get it all knocked out in three days.”

The deadline for the cities to get their information from the county, verify it and send it to Kennesaw State University, which creates the electronic ballots through its Center for Election Systems, is Saturday.

“Kennesaw State needs all of our data in order to build our election by Sept. 14. That is a drop-dead date for us,” he said.

Responding to a question from Commissioner Liz Hausmann, Barron said he is confident his department will meet the deadline.

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