FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — A state investigation concluded Fulton County’s elections office broke the law when it failed to process and deliver hundreds of absentee ballot requests, but also acknowledged the county is taking steps to correct the issue. The investigators forwarded their conclusions to the state attorney general’s office.
The state board of elections met virtually Thursday to discuss the findings of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. The investigation began after more than 250 Fulton County voters complained that they asked for but never received an absentee ballot. Of those 250, investigators said 107 didn’t vote at all.
Investigators concluded there were a number of issues that plagued Fulton County’s handling of the record number of absentee ballot requests for the June primary. Among them:
- They had to shut down and clean the elections office after one employee died of COVID-19 and another employee became infected.
- The email system was set up so that for every voter who requested an absentee ballot, it generated 20 different emails to 20 different employees, which overwhelmed the servers.
- Voters sent in their requests in different formats from PDF’s to JPEGs to .mov files to embedded photos. Investigators said the county’s printers couldn’t handle the different formats.
At no point, investigators concluded, did employees intentionally delay or fail to deliver the ballots.
“I didn’t see evidence of dereliction or indifference from them,” said State Elections Supervisor Chris Harvey. “I think they tried. Unfortunately, I believe the processes in Fulton County, trying to deal with the absentee ballots, was insufficient and ineffective, and it shuffled problems from one area to another. And the inability to identify key problems early and apply new solutions contributed significantly to a significant number of voters in Fulton County not being able to vote absentee and probably not being able to vote at all.”
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Harvey did acknowledge that Fulton County elections employees have been cooperative and have taken steps to correct the problems before the November election.
Fulton County’s attorneys argued that because they were being cooperative and taking proactive steps to correct the issues, there was no point in sending the investigation to the attorney general’s office. One attorney referred to elections office employees as heroic given their work during the pandemic.
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“We believe that no punitive sanctions of any kind are warranted in this matter,” said attorney Amanda Clark Palmer. “Punishment is designed to deter certain behavior, that’s the essence and purpose of punitive sanctions.”
The board voted unanimously to forward the investigation to the Attorney General, who could refer the matter to an administrative judge so both sides could hammer out a consent decree.