Election 2020, News

Fulton, DeKalb Boards Of Election Look For Solutions To Voting Woes

The counties are looking to avoid and correct problems, including long lines, that occurred during the June 9 election.
The counties are looking to avoid and correct problems, including long lines, that occurred during the June 9 election.
Credit EMil Moffatt / WABE
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A task force has delivered an initial set of recommendations, hoping to avoid the long lines that plagued this month’s primary elections in Fulton County.

Among the changes is the development of an online portal to accept absentee ballot applications. Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron says that should help avoid the backlog of emailed applications the county struggled to clear for the primaries.

“It was a massive undertaking to do that many applications at once. It was 140-fold increase over 2016,” said Barron, who noted that scanned applications came in as all different sorts of attachments, while some were embedded into emails. There were also emails that came in with multiple applications.

The secretary of state’s office also says it plans to develop an online portal, but Barron said he wasn’t sure if the state’s site will be available by November.

The task force also recommended extensive hands-on-training for Fulton election workers.

“Having that hands-on training in addition to continuing that online training, having the quick reference guides, I think, will help our poll workers certainly feel very comfortable in the process and providing service on that day,” said Brigitte Bailey, director of customer service for Fulton County.

Bailey presented the findings of the task force, which also included the use of county-owned buildings as backup polling sites in case there were more health-related cancellations.

The Fulton board of elections has already acted on one of the recommendations Monday morning as it approved 19 early voting sites, more than double what the county opened last month. Among those is the Atlanta Hawks’ home, State Farm Arena, which Barron said will likely support 25 check-in sites and “a few hundred” voting machines for early voting for the November general election.

Any Fulton County voter can cast a ballot at any polling location, including State Farm Arena during early voting, but must vote at their assigned precinct on Election Day.

“This is going to be the premier early voting site in the country for states that do early voting,” said Barron. “And I think having the Hawks want to participate and lend staff to help, just says a lot about their organization.”

Early voting for the August runoff in Fulton begins July 20. Early voting sites will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday.

Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts continued to express confidence in Fulton’s board of elections to correct the problems from June 9. He says his goal is to have 40% of Fulton County voters vote early, 40% by absentee ballot, leaving just 20% to head to the polls on Election Day itself.

DeKalb County Hears Recommendations, Votes On Early Voting Sites

A task force in DeKalb issued seven key recommendations for smoothing out Election Day issues in that county. They included hiring more tech-savvy poll workers, securing polling locations amid the pandemic and increasing early voting locations and hours.

“Overall, the election went well from what we had to go through,” said DeKalb County’s elections director, Erica Hamilton. “Again, as always from an election, there’s always points you can learn from.”

Hamilton says they are awaiting a ruling from the state Elections Board on whether absentee ballot drop boxes will be permitted again for August runoffs or the November general elections. The emergency measure passed earlier this year applied only to June 9.

Hamilton said DeKalb has three additional drop boxes that it has purchased and will install them if they can be used again.

DeKalb County’s elections board voted to open three early polling locations for the August runoff. They’ll be open Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting July 20. There will be Saturday early voting on Aug. 1.