Fulton County voting problems spur state investigation - CBS46 News

Fulton County must certify votes by Friday

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Fulton County's elections director and board chairman address reporters Fulton County's elections director and board chairman address reporters
ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Georgia's secretary of state said Fulton County is the only one of 159 counties in Georgia that has yet to certify Tuesday's election results.

Brian Kemp's office has launched an investigation into what it considers to be mass failures in Fulton County during Tuesday's presidential election.

"It's disappointing from my standpoint when we had so many voters complaining to our office about how the process worked," Kemp said via phone Wednesday.  "They were trying to cast their votes. I think that's probably about as bad as it gets when it comes to elections."

A number of people said they were registered but were not on the voter rolls.  They were told to cast provisional ballots but some precincts ran out of those ballots and didn't get restocked with ballots for hours.

"From what reports are saying there could be potentially thousands of provisional ballots that were cast when really that shouldn't have been the case," Kemp said.  "It's very frustrating for us."  

"I got here at like 2:30 and I waited until like 4 o'clock. I left, came back, still nothing," voter E. Ruben Byers said. "They should have had backups, so with a situation like this, it should be handled."

Byers finally was able to cast a provisional ballot just minutes before the polls closed at 7 p.m.

During an election update on Tuesday night, the Interim Director of the Fulton County Registration and Elections board tried to explain what happened.

"The wait is not an acceptable wait," Sharon Mitchell said. "We are investigating why that process didn't work as it should have, and certainly we extend our apologies to all of our voters who had to wait."

Fulton County has been plagued since 2008 with a number of issues related to voting. It had issues in during the July Primary as well.

The head of Georgia Election Connection, a watchdog group that monitors voter-related issues, said the problems during this election are unique to Fulton County.

"I believe it is unacceptable," Sarah Shalf said. "This is a systemic issue, and this is one that has taken a very long time to resolve, and it's still not completely resolved. I am again concerned what is going to happen in the next three days with all of those provisional ballots being counted. And I hope the secretary of state's office will be following up with Fulton County to make sure they have enough staff on hand to count the large number of provisional ballots they are going to have to handle."

County officials admit there were mistakes and problems that need to be fixed. Mitchell said she has been the interim director for only six weeks, a post that she was forced into taking after the director, Samuel Westmoreland, resigned amid a scandal involving a probation violation related to a drunk driving charge.

"The secretary of state's web site shows this is my polling location," voter Carl Hill said. "They told me I am not on the rolls. I showed them on my phone that I was supposed to vote here. They said there is nothing they could do, that I could cast a provisional ballot. However, they don't have any provisional ballots. I think it is ridiculous, because it is just slips of paper. I don't see how no one would have the forethought to make sure there are enough ballots."

Officials acknowledged that some voters were given provisional ballots - the backup paper ballots used when voters cannot verify their registration - when they truly did not need them.

The Chairman of the Board for Fulton County Registration and Elections said he will cooperate fully with any investigation by the state.

"We welcome any efforts to getting it better," Dr. Rod Edmond said. "I believe the secretary of state is truly committed to making every election throughout the state of Georgia seamless.  So we welcome the interrogation because it's all geared towards getting it right."

Election officials said that precincts were given double the amount of provisional ballots polling precincts thought would be necessary.

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