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State investigating Fulton County voting problems

10:58 AM, Nov 7, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Officials with the Georgia Secretary of State's office are investigating election complaints in Fulton County that included long lines, excessive provisional ballot requests, staffing problems and broken machines on election day.

Early Wednesday, Fulton was the only county in Georgia that had not reported complete vote counts to the state. The Secretary of State's website showed Fulton County did not have complete election day reports for any of its 352 precincts.

"I think fundamental change needs to be on the table," said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. "It makes you wonder what's so broken that we cannot get it fixed."

At one polling place -- Venetian Hills Elementary School on Atlanta's far south side -- hundreds of voters became frustrated with problems.

"People shouldn't have to wait three and four hours," said one voter, Stevie Rogers, after she cast her vote.

The precinct manager said the problem was a broken machine used to check-in voters at the poll, which she said left her a single machine to function in that capacity for about five hours Tuesday.

A number of voters waited in line for hours, only to find their names were not on the precinct's list, or to find that they had an incorrect form of identification.

Some voters who were turned away said they were not offered the opportunity to to fill out a provisional ballot, which would be customary in that instance. When asked about provisional ballots, some voters were told they had run out and were waiting for more.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp says Fulton County was not prepared for Election Day. He said that Fulton was the only one of Georgia's 159 counties with problems.

Kemp says Fulton County officials repeatedly assured him for weeks that everything was ready for the general election, especially after problems with the voting process in July.

The county could face fines and other penalties from the state as a result. After similar problems during the 2008 presidential elections, the Fulton County Elections Board was hit with $120,000 in fines -- the largest fine ever levied against any Georgia elections board.

In a Tuesday evening news conference, Fulton County interim director of elections, Sharon Mitchell said the problems in Fulton County were not as widespread as in previous elections, and that she feels Fulton County is getting better, despite having a long way to go.

Mitchell went on to say that some of the problems noted at Morehouse College were mistakes by precinct managers, who she said had been trained and should have been able to handle the situation. 

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