Fulton Changes Election Night Reporting Process For Nov. 6 Vote

Sep 27, 2018

Georgia’s most populous county is changing the way it uploads election results to the state’s server for the Nov. 6 midterm election.

Fulton County Director of Registration and Elections Richard Barron told GPB News in a Sept. 26 interview the county is ditching analog modems that transmit results from five check-in centers to a central warehouse server. Instead, poll workers carrying sealed bags of memory cards from the county’s 183 voting locations will be escorted by law enforcement from the centers to the main warehouse in the West Midtown neighborhood of Atlanta.

In an interview, he said the county made the switch at the suggestion of the secretary of state’s office. Fulton County and Secretary Of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor, are defendants in an ongoing federal lawsuit trying to force the state to use paper ballots instead of the current direct-recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines.

A federal judge ruled Sept. 17 that the state could keep using the DRE machines but had strong words for state officials who “buried their heads in the sand” when it came to dealing with Georgia’s 16-year-old elections system.

Barron said Fulton’s physical size and large population presents a challenge when creating an infrastructure to count and report votes. 

“Fulton County is different than other counties because we have such a dense urban population, we have so many polling places, and it’s 75 miles from one end of the county to the other,” Barron said.

Poll workers will still transport precinct results to the check-in centers spread across the county: Roswell City Hall, the Fulton County North Annex in Sandy Springs, the Fulton County South Annex in College Park, Maynard Jackson High School in Atlanta and Paul D. West Middle School in East Point.

Under this new system, Barron said law enforcement will be leaving from the check-in centers every 15 minutes starting at 8 p.m.

“I am unsure what impact it’s going to have on [the results reporting time],” Barron said. “But it takes much longer to drive results from Roswell City Hall versus an analog phone line." 

With the memory cards now traveling extra miles through Atlanta traffic, plus a large anticipated turnout for the gubernatorial election between Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, results from Fulton could come in later. But Barron said a relatively new “election night assistant” program should cut down on wait times.

Election night assistants are county workers that begin breaking down voting sites while the poll managers consolidate votes from the precincts’ DRE machines onto a single memory card. That allows the managers to focus on paperwork and getting over to the check-in centers. And once the cards come in from the centers to the main warehouse, Barron said it should be smooth sailing.

“If everyone accumulates votes correctly in their precinct, we should only have to read 183 cards.”