Vowing To Overcome Past Troubles, Fulton County Doubles Investment In Elections

Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron addresses the media last year.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

With just over a month before the November election, Fulton County is touting the additional resources it’s added to try and ensure a smoother election.

“Not only have we improved the basics, we’ve broken new ground,” said Robb Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

Pitts and other county officials Thursday morning showed off a recreational vehicle that’s been converted into a voting center on wheels that can accommodate up to 10 voters at once.

“This mobile voting unit is going to travel across the county to bring voting even closer to our residents,” said Pitts, who also introduced the county’s new mobile app, which will direct voters to voting resources.

In the nearly three months since the rocky June 9 primary elections, Fulton County has spent millions of dollars in an effort to offer a more seamless voting experience in November.

The total investment in elections for this year is expected to be $34 million – double the amount that was originally allocated for this year’s elections, according to County Manager Dick Anderson.

“This is reflective of the priority that our elected leaders have placed on a great citizen experience in November,” said Anderson.

Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts stands inside the county's new mobile voting unit. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)
Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts stands inside the county’s new mobile voting unit. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

The county will have more than 30 early voting sites open beginning Oct. 12, in addition to two mobile voting centers that will spend time in each county commission district. The county is also adding dozens more absentee ballot drop boxes.

Primary Problems

In June, voters in several parts of the county waited for hours in lines in order to vote. Inexperienced poll workers and voting sites that were shuttered because of COVID-19 helped lead to the delays.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents who applied for absentee ballots by mail in June never received them.

The county hopes the improvements it’s made since June will help reduce the lines and the backlog of absentee ballots.

Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron says the county has already processed 186,000 absentee ballot applications. He said the majority of those ballots have already been mailed to voters and employees are keeping up with requests as they come in.

“We have people [county employees] at the Darnell Senior Center entering applications, and our two call centers, when they aren’t answering the phones, they’re also entering either voter registration applications or absentee-by-mail applications, and that’s in addition to my staff,” said Barron.

The county hopes to have 80% of Fulton’s 790,000 registered voters cast ballots before Nov. 3, either by mail or during early in-person voting, which begins Oct. 12. Fulton voters can cast ballots at any early voting location — including State Farm Arena, which will feature 300 voting machines.

On Election Day, Fulton County will have more than 250 polling locations, up from 164 during the June 9 primary. While this should serve to reduce wait times, it also relies on voters checking to see if their assigned polling place has changed.

The county says each polling place will have a technician on-site to troubleshoot any issues with the state’s new voting machines.

Georgia voters must register by Oct. 5 in order to vote in the Nov. 3 election.