Fulton County still has about 68,000 mail-in ballots to count, along with a small number of provisional and military ballots to count before finalizing the Nov. 3 general election results, its election official said.
The delay means Georgia is one of the few states that still have electoral college votes up for grabs in the presidential election.
Richard Barron, director of the Fulton Elections and Registrations Department, said about 42,400 ballots are expected to be counted on Nov. 4, with the remaining 25,000 likely to be counted the next day. He provided an update on the elections at the County Commissioners Council meeting on November 4, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked by a commissioner when the first wave of ballots could be counted, Barron said: “9pm to midnight”. He added that the general election turnout is expected to be close to the county’s projection of 80%, or around 620,000.
“We were hoping to lead 80% of the voters who voted to the mail ballot and the advance poll,” said Barron, adding that around 250,000 residents have voted early in person, a further 255,000 mail ballots have already been processed. and nearly 60,000 voted on election day.
He later said the county expects to count 1,200 to 3,000 provisional ballots and the deadline to receive military ballots is Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. This year, Fulton recorded 4.5 times more mail-in ballots than in the previous presidential election in 2016.
While Barron said the 255 polling stations on election day had no issues to report and short lines for voters, there were issues behind the scenes.
According to a report from WSB-TV, Beltmann Relocation Group, a moving company, failed to deliver election materials to 30 polling stations in north Fulton on the eve of the election, forcing the county to scramble to find another way to transport it.
“They canceled us mid-morning on Monday,” Barron said, later adding, “They said they had the trucks but no staff.”
District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who represents part of northern Fulton and was angry with the news, disagreed.
“That’s not what they say in the media,” she said. “To find out Monday night, there were 30 ridings in North Fulton without equipment made me dizzy. The fact that North Fulton might not have ridings was very, very stressful. Mr. Barron, I know that it was stressful for you and your staff. I know there was no plan for voter suppression, which the county is accused of, (but) it cannot happen again. “
Additionally, at approximately 6:07 a.m. on November 3, a pipe burst above the ceiling in a room in the State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta, where Fulton Election Department workers were counting mail-in ballots. , delayed the process. Although no ballots or machines were damaged by the water problem, it forced workers to stop counting for at least two hours while the mess was cleaned up by Atlanta Hawks staff, a said Barron.
With the pandemic still in effect and with many voters possibly continuing to opt for mail-in ballots in the future, the chief electoral officer said he could avoid delays with these ballots in the next election if Fulton was getting help with more equipment and with the state legislature.
“It took us a full eight hours to close early voting (data),” he said. “It usually takes 90 to 120 minutes. … I spoke to a (state) senator to get his help (with a new law) to enable us to close early voting earlier. It delays the process.
Fulton spent $ 37 million in all of this year’s election. Barron also said the county has five openers / extractors, equipment he uses to count mail-in ballots, but may need many more. He added that Philadelphia County, home to the Pennsylvania city of the same name, has 15.
“For a county our size, if we continue to have this volume, we need to keep buying more,” said Barron, adding that Fulton might also need larger rooms / spaces to count mail-in ballots. . “… This is one of the places where we are stranded. They stay in these envelopes for a long time after they get here.
“It’s a long and arduous process. … These are some of these procedures that we will have to do. We will have to refine them. I recently briefed the Fulton County delegation (in the Legislature) on the processes we can put in place to speed things up. Space and equipment will be the keys to the future.
Barron also said the county should purchase another piece of equipment, a juggler, “who will take a stack of ballots and lay them out,” to help stop further delays.