Tuesday’s election brought first major test to state’s new voting laws

ATLANTA — It’s Election Day across parts of Georgia, and Tuesday was the first big test of the state’s new election rules. Counties in metro Atlanta had few issues.

Fulton County officials told Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray that the problems they saw Tuesday morning at a couple of polling places are the types of issues that have led to huge lines in the past.

But this time, they say poll workers followed their procedures and quickly switched to emergency paper ballots so that voting never stopped.

[REAL-TIME RESULTS: Georgia 2021 Election Results]

Fulton County elections officials said voting was light but steady across the county.

“There have been no significant lines today,” Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said.

Channel 2′s cameras were there as voters used emergency paper ballots at the Birdine Community Center in southwest Atlanta Tuesday morning.

The same thing happened in Sandy Springs at North Springs High School. In both cases the poll pads that allowed voting machines to work weren’t delivered.


“I asked someone, ‘Are you all ready for us to come in?’ and someone at the desk hands me a provisional ballot and says, ‘You can only vote a provisional ballot.’I said, ‘No, ma’am,’” voter Ashlee Lewis said.

But county election leaders say that was proper procedure and kept the polls open.

That was something that did not happen in June 2019 when county leaders say poll workers struggled with what to do when there were equipment problems leading to huge lines.

“There’s never going to be a perfect election. I say that over and over again. But we have our people trained, and whenever there is a problem, we react immediately to solve the problem and that’s what’s happened today,” Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts said.

Fulton County is under increased pressure this Election Day from the new state election law, SB 202, which allows state takeovers of failing county election divisions.

The state election board has ordered a performance review of Fulton County.

“The performance review panel is actually here today. I’ve met with two of them today and they’ll be monitoring today,” Barron told Gray.

While most polls across the state close at 7 p.m., voters in Atlanta have an extra hour, until 8 p.m.

Officials say that could make it challenging to meet another new requirement of SB 202, that they get the number of total votes counted to the state by 10 p.m.

County officials told Gray they hope to have the numbers on the Atlanta mayor’s race by midnight.