At a press conference Wednesday morning, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stood overlooking more than 100 voting machines at Georgia’s largest early voting site, State Farm Arena.
In his opening remarks, he recognized several private companies for their contributions to early voting and vote-by-mail efforts. But he only mentioned the work of Fulton County after being asked.
“I know that at times, people [with Fulton County] were saying, ‘Why do you keep on beating up on us?’ But we made sure we had an accountability measure in place and it’s come together. This is testament to our efforts to ensure that voters have a great experience. And this is really a great testament to Fulton County really getting serious about having well-run elections,” said Raffensperger.
Top Fulton County officials say they were kept in the dark about Wednesday’s press conference and weren’t asked to take part.
Amid the pandemic, Fulton was the site of some of the longest lines in the state in June – the result of polling place closures and inexperienced poll workers. Thousands of absentee ballots also never made it to voters after their applications got lost when the county’s email server was overwhelmed.
In the days and months after the primary, Raffensperger and his office pinned much of the blame for what happened on Fulton County, and the state election board undertook an investigation.
Even as many of the technical and staffing issues appear to be resolved, an undercurrent of tension is lingering between the state and Fulton County.
This week, as early voting draws to a close, nearly half of registered voters in Fulton have already cast ballots either by mail or in person, including thousands at State Farm Arena.
For his part, Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron did describe the working relationship with the secretary of state’s office as “friendly.”
And Chairman Robb Pitts, who was at the arena a few hours after the Raffensperger press conference, said they’ve taken the criticism from the state as a challenge to get better.
“We’ve been working pretty much every day to get to where we are now,” said Pitts. “And this is the granddaddy of them all, right here, State Farm Arena, elections central, and this just speaks to what we’ve been able to accomplish, Fulton County in partnership with the Atlanta Hawks.”
Pitts and Barron are expecting their efforts to pay dividends come Election Day and make Fulton stand out again – but this time in a good way.