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Fulton election director: Candler Park ballot issues cast a 'black cloud' over city elections (Update)

'If somebody voted without notifying a poll worker, unfortunately there are no do-overs'

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  • Joeff Davis
  • Candler Park voters filled out provisional ballots for several hours this morning

A programming error with election ballots caused some Candler Park residents to receive the wrong ballots for roughly two hours this morning.

Richard Barron, Fulton County's director of elections and registration, confirmed earlier reports from Epworth United Methodist Church that voters in one precinct (02I) were getting a ballot intended for another precinct (05P).

Image He said the "inadvertent assignments" likely impacted the area's Atlanta Public Schools board race, which could affect the District 1 outcome between incumbent Brenda Muhammad and Leslie Grant. The director also acknowledged that entire ballots could be affected.

"I think the difference was in the APS Board of Education race," he says. "As far as the City Council race, I'd have to check. But the whole ballot may have been incorrect."

Once the problem was identified, Barron said Fulton switched over to provisional ballots for several hours before finding a "workaround" to allow ballot casters to continue using computerized voting booths.

Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt says that "approximately 130 people" voted at the precinct before provisional ballots were used. She isn't sure yet about the exact percentage of people impacted by the issue. Barron says those votes would count for the wrong precinct.

"If somebody voted without notifying a poll worker, unfortunately there are no do-overs," Barron says.

Barron said Fulton was working with its partners - the Secretary of State, Kennesaw State University, and Dekalb County - to determine the problem's source. While he felt confident that Fulton "fulfilled its responsibility," he hesitated to point fingers.

"As far as this goes, I know that we did our job on this one," Barron says. "Unfortunately, it is going to be a black cloud."

Aside from Candler Park, Barron said that Fulton has seen a steady, consistent voter turnout that's met expectations for a municipal election. One Buckhead precinct had experienced battery issues with some polls that were quickly resolved. The election director had also asked the courts to allow the First Presbyterian Church polling location to remain open a little longer tonight following a 28-minute delay getting started this morning.

UPDATE, 5:13 p.m.: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the ballot problem was caused by a "human data entry error." In a statement to the AJC, he said:

There was a human data entry error that originated in my agency that possibly resulted in a limited number of voters receiving the wrong ballot in the Epworth Church precinct that has portions of DeKalb and Fulton Counties. When it was brought to our attention late morning, a remediation plan was sent to the counties and we are confident that everyone voting since approximately noon has cast the correct ballot.

There is no way to know how many ballots were cast in error until after this election is completed. Our focus today is to make sure the election runs as smoothly as possible. We will do a thorough investigation into the effect of this human error and will be very transparent in sharing what we find out.

NOTE: This post has been updated to include additional information.