Local, News, Politics

Past Troubles At Georgia Polls, Strained Relationship Between 2 Election Leaders

On June 9, many Georgia voters encountered long lines.
On June 9, many Georgia voters encountered long lines.
Credit Brynn Anderson / Associated PRess file

After the June 9 Georgia primary resulted in long lines, voter confusion, lack of in-depth training for new poll workers and missing absentee ballots, state and local elections officials pushed blame back-and-forth for months.

It’s no secret that the relationship between Georgia’s highest election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Fulton County’s elections chief, Richard Barron, is strained.

Raffensperger has been critical of how Barron handled the June primary. Barron has said that the coronavirus pandemic created unprecedented challenges in a county as populated as Fulton, and Raffensperger can’t wash his hands of responsibility.

Amid the Aug. 11 runoffs, Barron spoke to WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress about communication between the two elections leaders – and if Barron’s future as Fulton’s elections chief is in jeopardy, depending how the process flows come this November.

“What I’m concentrated on is preparing for the presidential election,” Barron said.

He told Burress that Fulton ran a very smooth 2016 presidential election, and he expects to be personally held responsible for any discrepancies.

“I think that with everything we’re putting in place, with regard to the absentee by-mail portal, and the state putting in a portal, that’s going to streamline absentee by-mail,” Barron said.

“The more people that vote by absentee, that’s going to help out tremendously. We need people to vote at home, not only for their own safety, but also to make sure our polling sites don’t get overloaded with voters.”

Burress also spoke to Raffensperger about communications between himself and Barron just before the last day of early voting in August.

Brad Raffensperger

He also discussed State Farm Arena and Atlanta Hawks employees transforming the space into the largest polling place in Georgia’s history. The Hawks and Fulton County partnered to ensure long lines were done away with in August and September.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.