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Why one DeKalb race is delaying county's election results

DeKalb election officials blamed a technical issue for creating trouble in the Democratic primary for a county commission seat.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — More than a week since Georgia's primary election, results have yet to be certified in one DeKalb County race. 

The close contest for the Democratic primary in the District 2 County Commission bid originally had four candidates on the ballot. The area covers Decatur, Chamblee, Brookhaven, Tucker and parts of Atlanta. One of the candidates, Don Broussard, dropped out. That left Marshall Orson, Lauren Alexander and Michelle Long Spears battling for the seat. 

When Broussard dropped out, DeKalb County election officials had the choice to either not count the ballots for Broussard or drop his name off the ballot altogether. The county chose the second option and had to reprogram hundreds of voting machines. However, on Election Day, DeKalb election workers discovered several machines still had Broussard on the ballot, which lead to incorrect vote totals.

Initial results from last week showed a likely runoff between Orson and Alexander. DeKalb elections board officials voted Tuesday to delay certification of the results in the District 2 commissioner's Democratic primary due to what they called "a series of technical issues." The county said several precincts were affected.

RELATED: DeKalb District 2 race holds up county election certification

“Both the VRE staff and the Board are committed to getting these election results right, which is what DeKalb voters expect of us,” said Board Chair Dele Lowman Smith in a statement. “We believe that taking the extra time to review and audit the results is imperative to maintaining the public’s confidence in elections, and we are eager to work with our partners at the Secretary of State to prevent these types of issues from reoccurring in the future.”

One expert said this is a good call.

"Public perception is just as important as the election results themselves," Claire Sanders, a political science professor at Georgia College and State University, said. “Elections are managed at the county level. They’re managed by local officials, and whenever humans are involved, there is the chance for human error.”

RELATED: DeKalb District 2 Commission race under recount, election leaders say

Sanders is a former elections clerk in Greene County. She said DeKalb election officials need to show transparency in addressing the issue to bolster public trust in the democratic process.

"If there are technological glitches, poll worker errors, or whatever the problem is, it’s important to be transparent to keep the public informed," Sanders said. 

Walter Jones, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State's Office, said the office was helping DeKalb County election workers perform a recount to help certify the election results. He credited Georgia's move to paper ballots in 2019 for a smoother recount process. 

“We’re willing to help the team any way we can," Jones said. "We’re all serving voters.”

Jones said it was likely an investigation would start a few months after the results are certified to try and figure out what exactly led up to the issues. 

“The Secretary of State's Office will interview witnesses, look at evidence, paperwork and records," Jones said. "Then, they will present their findings to the state election board. That’s usually a couple months after the election.”

Jones said the state elections board can issue a warning, order remedial training, impose a fine or refer any criminal activity to a prosecutor if warranted. Despite DeKalb missing Tuesday's county deadline to certify its election results, county officials said they were focused on getting results certified by Friday, which is one week before the statewide certification deadline of June 10. 

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