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Fulton County election performance called 'horrible', 'a debacle' | News

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Fulton County election performance called 'horrible', 'a debacle'

ATLANTA -- Fulton County's Elections department came under more criticism Wednesday for numerous voting problems during early voting and Tuesday's general election.

"Horrible," is how Elizabeth Poythress described it.

As President of the GA League of Women Voters, she told 11Alive News that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp described it best by calling it "a debacle".

Kemp said Fulton was the only one of 159 Georgia counties that generated numerous voter complaints to his office.

Those complaints were about long lines, broken or not enough machinery, too few or poorly trained poll workers and thousands of voters who were registered, but who were still given provisional ballots when poll workers couldn't find them on their records.

Even most critics are sympathetic to Interim Fulton County Elections Director Sharon Mitchell who took over the office just 6 weeks ago.

Her former boss, Samuel Westmoreland, was forced out after similar complaints from the summer primary election and when he was jailed in September for probation violations on previous DUI charges.

"We acknowledge that some aspects didn't go as well as we would've liked," Mitchell told a meeting of Fulton County Commissioners on Wednesday afternoon.

"However, we will say to you that we will be working with staff at the county manager's office and doing all the lessons learned to assess where those failures occurred," she added.

But Mitchell said she thought they did a pretty good job overall, with most problems limited to only 10 out of more than 300 precincts.

Commissioner Liz Hausmann from North Fulton County was sympathetic toward Mitchell, who she credited with trying to fix problems when they cropped up.

But she was not happy with complaints from several of her constituents.

"When people have problems voting and when they feel like they can't wait and they try multiple times to achieve their right to vote, I feel that's a problem," she told Mitchell.

Two other commissioners praised Mitchell and her department for what they consider a good election performance.

One even accused some "biased" news media for exaggerating what happened.

"There were a lot of people who left those polls who had good things to say...I heard 'em," insisted Commissioner Bill Edwards.

"What you read in some local newspapers is entirely different from what constituents tell us," claimed Commissioner Emma Darnell.

Mitchell said she and her staff plan to meet with Secretary of State Kemp to try and resolve the problems, especially making sure some 11,000 genuine provisional ballots get counted.

Ronnie Mosley's provisional ballot is among them. The 21-year-old Morehouse College student was excited to vote in his first presidential election. But Mosley said when he arrived at the precinct, he was told his name wasn't on the list, even though his registration appeared online. Mosley says his only option was to cast a provisional ballot.

"I think what really hits home is, does my vote count?" he said Tuesday night. "We have a lot of first-time voters."

Mosley and other students are requesting representatives from the elections office come to Morehouse to help students ensure their ballots are verified.

Kemp's office is still investigating numerous complaints about Fulton's election performance from last summer.

In 2008 they hit Fulton County with a $120,000 fine for election mishaps, still considered the largest fine ever imposed in Georgia.


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