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State officials call for firing or resignation of Spalding Co. election supervisor

They said there were "serious management issues and poor decision-making" during the Nov. 3 election.

SPALDING COUNTY, Ga. — Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia state legislators from Spalding County are calling for the resignation or termination of county election supervisor Marcia Ridley after examples of "serious management issues and poor decision-making" were uncovered during the Nov. 3 general election.

In a release, Raffensperger said, "County elections officials are responsible for ensuring the voting process is smooth and efficient and must take responsibility when they fail." 

Problems with voting machines at precincts in Spalding County early on the morning of Election Day, resulted in voters there facing long lines and being forced to use provisional ballots for more than two hours.

On Nov. 3, Ridley told 11Alive the people who make the voting machines caught the issue at 7:05 a.m. and a technician had to go to each precinct to reset the poll pads. Nearly two hours after the polls were supposed to be open, election officials said they were up and running. 

In Spalding County -- a solidly red county located about 45 minutes south of Atlanta -- all 18 precincts were hit with problems that were ultimately traced to the poll pads used to check voters in. 

One voter told 11Alive on Election Day that she saw a lot of people leaving one precinct after they were told the machines were down. 

"There's a lot of people that left within the past hour and a half. Hopefully, they come back and everybody gets their vote in, but right now, there is a lot of people who left within 30 minutes after they said the machines were down," she said. 

Precincts in Spalding County eventually remained open beyond their scheduled 7 p.m. closing time to accommodate inconvenienced voters. 

RELATED: Tech issue causes voting machines in Spalding County to go down

According to Raffensperger's release, if voting machines are not working normally, county election superintendents have been trained to use a number of workarounds to allow voters to cast ballots using the ballot marking devices like other voters. 

"If that is impossible, which was not the case in Spalding County, Georgia law instructs county elections superintendents to conduct voting in those locations on emergency ballots, which are scanned immediately like other ballots cast in person on Election Day," the release said.

None of this was done in Spalding County, according to Raffensperger's release. Instead, Radley instructed her workers to use provisional ballots, which are processed differently. 

According to the release, Radley claimed that an update had been made to the voting system on the night before Election Day, that caused problems with the voting machines.

No such update had been made, nor had the machines been touched in the days leading up to the election, the release said. 

"By spreading this baseless and thoroughly inaccurate rumor, Ridley greatly harmed election integrity in Georgia and provided talking points for those looking to undermine elections in the Peach State," the release said.

In a statement forwarded to 11Alive late Tuesday afternoon, Ridley said her decision to use provisional ballots on Election Day when machines at the county's 18 precincts were not working was "made according to the law promulgated by the Secretary of States in emergency situations."

She said that later in the day, Dominion sent technicians to all of the precincts in the county to resolve system issues.

"The assertion that I spread a false rumor concerning the system malfunction is baseless. In fact, members of the Spading County Legislative Delegation filed a lawsuit to extend the voting hours of the Spalding County polls and cited a problem with the voting machines," Ridley said. "The lawsuit was never formally served on the Spalding County Board of Elections and I was not summoned to court to testify. Our office has requested the Georgia Secretary of State to investigate the legality of the lawsuit and resulting order to extend the voting hours at all Spalding County polls."

She said that she was initially told there may have been an update performed the night before Election Day and that Dominion would be investigating to determine the cause of the computer malfunction.

Following an investigation, Dominion indicated that no system can be updated without their knowledge. 

"My office verified the data that was sent relating to the absence of an update by reviewing the Poll Book voter log files which indicated that the last voter file update to the pollbooks was done after the completion of Early Voting, on Saturday the 31st of October," Ridley said. "Therefore, the investigation by Dominion has ruled out the possibility of an update on the night before the 2020 Presidential Election."

Ridley went on to say that Spalding County Board of Elections and Registrations Chair Margaret Bentley indicated that she fully supports Ridley and has "no intention of asking for her resignation."

   

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