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Fulton County election mismanagement case referred to state attorney general

The case arose out of a "series of voter complaints" against the county "for failing to process and send absentee ballot requests" for the June primary.

ATLANTA — The Georgia Secretary of State's Office announced Friday that the State Election Board had unanimously decided to send a case, alleging multiple violations of Georgia law by Fulton County in mishandling the June primaries, to the state attorney general.

Attorney General Chris Carr's office will now have to decide what to do with the case, which arose out of what the Secretary of State's Office said were a "series of voter complaints" against the county "for failing to process and send absentee ballot requests" for the June primary.

The chief investigator in the Secretary of State's Office, Frances Watson, said the state received 254 such complaints from voters who didn't receive an absentee ballot.

RELATED: After runoffs, Fulton County election board outlines concerns, preparations for November

Of those, 107 ultimately did not vote in the June primaries. The Secretary of State's office said 105 never had their information entered into a state system for "ballot fulfillment."

Fulton County elections officials have argued since June that they were essentially set up to fail by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, saying they weren't given enough time to implement a new voting system and were left under-resourced by the state.

The back-and-forth between some counties that experienced the worst troubles - mainly Fulton and DeKalb - and the state has played out in both public statements and the courtroom. 

A suit brought earlier this month over voting lines basically lays the blame at the feet of both parties.

While that suit faulted counties for mismanaging election logistics in many respects, it also charged the state with chronic elections neglect, including "persistent closure and consolidation of polling locations and failure to provide adequate election equipment, elections officials and volunteers with sufficient training, available technicians to address technical problems that arise, sufficient time to set up polling locations, and emergency paper ballots for backup when equipment breaks down or malfunctions."

RELATED: National, state Democrats file suit against Georgia to remedy long voting lines

However in the specific case against Fulton County now being referred to the attorney general's office, State Election Board appointee David Worley said "while the COVID phenomenon … was not limited to Fulton … the large extent of problems with the processing of absentee ballot applications were clearly evident in Fulton County."

“This is about identifying and addressing the issues we saw in June, so that we don’t see them repeated in Fulton this November,” Sec. Raffensperger said in a release. “All of us, on the state level and those doing the hard work at the county level, had to manage through the COVID-19 crisis in June. We will all have to manage through it in November as well. But the volume of Fulton’s issues was unique." 

He said up to 80% of the complaints about the June primaries in Georgia came from Fulton.

But the release added that the secretary "hopes Fulton County and the State Election Board will be able to build a positive and productive relationship moving forward."

The county has sounded a more optimistic tone since the primary run-offs earlier this month, which went much more smoothly.

"We're doing these incremental steps, and I think we made a lot of progress between June and August," Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said after the run-off voting. "I do think it's encouraging."

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