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State board details Fulton elections violations
Fulton County elections officials mishandled thousands of absentee ballot applications last fall and failed to secure voting equipment at several precincts, state investigators say.
The State Elections Board voted Tuesday to forward the findings to Attorney General Thurbert Baker’s office, which has opened a case file on the incidents outlined in the investigative report. That could lead to an administrative law hearing, fines and other penalties.
Investigators said they found unacceptable delays and errors in mailing out absentee ballots in the last week before the Nov. 4 general election.
On Oct. 30, investigators found backed-up elections workers scrambling to get through 2,500 unprocessed applications for absentee ballots. Fifty voters whose applications had been rejected had not been notified, and 78 ballots had not been mailed even though elections records said they had, the investigative report said.
The end result: To get ballots out in time, the elections office spent $287,620 to ship more than 4,000 ballots by FedEx overnight dellvery. Nearly 1,400 ballots were sent out the day before Election Day, a violation of state law.
Investigators also found Fulton County:
— did not secure voter access cards from advance voters. At the Fulton County Government Center in downtown Atlanta, cards “were put in workers’ pockers, left on the table and found on the floor,” the report said.
— did not ask advance voters to provide proper photo identification.
— failed to follow procedures in counting absentee ballots after they were cast.
While votes were being counted, a basket of unsecured ballots was also found on a shelf separated from the other ballots. “Investigators asked poll workers if they knew what the ballots were and no one could answer what they were or what to do with them,” the report said.
Fulton elections officials have 30 days to respond in writing to the findings. After that, the Attorney General’s Office “will look to the State Elections Board to determine if they want to continue on this course,” spokesman Russ Willard said.