Fulton County is running an election for its life in this November’s race for Atlanta mayor. If the county stumbles, Georgia’s government might take over.
Fulton will try to prove itself after 2020 elections scarred by slow results, long lines, lost absentee ballot requests and constant criticism from Republican President Donald Trump and his supporters.
The county will be challenged by the higher standards required of Georgia’s new voting law, which demands quick ballot counting, greater transparency and investigations of discrepancies.
Fulton’s defenders say the takeover attempt is a politically motivated effort to undermine a county where 73% of voters backed Democrat Joe Biden for president.
But repeated election deficiencies in Fulton are indisputable, from extreme voting wait times in last year’s primary to a series of different problems in November, with unfounded suspicions of fraud mixed with real mistakes.
A monitor installed by the State Election Board found “sloppy” election processes but no evidence of “any dishonesty, fraud or intentional malfeasance.”
Since then, the county has tightened ballot-handling procedures, hired new election managers and rewritten training manuals.
Whether those changes will result in a seamless election day and voter confidence remains to be seen.
“There were very many valid concerns. The only problem is, they were overshadowed by the invalid concerns” about fraud, said Carter Jones, who observed the election during November for the State Election Board. “Fulton has to take some accountability and reform some of this stuff before it’s reformed for them. The more holes in their ship, the more likely it is the state takes over. Figure it out, folks.”