Investigation finds races were left off of hundreds of absentee ballots in Fulton County

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned two of the biggest Aug. 11 runoffs in Fulton County were left off hundreds of absentee ballots.

A top state elections official told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that because of coronavirus there are hundreds of thousands more absentee ballots than usual this year.

Alethea Boone said she and her late husband, civil rights leader Rev. Joseph E. Boone, worked hard for voting rights, along with her mother.

“In Selma, Alabama, my mother went up and down the steps in the courthouse 32 times before she was allowed to vote,” Boone said.

She discovered in a conversation with one of her daughters, Atlanta City Council member Andrea Boone, that the absentee ballot sent to her home was missing two big races: Democratic runoffs for Fulton County sheriff and district attorney.

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That’s when she told Winne that she became very concerned.

“I’m very disturbed,” Boone said.

She said in the primary she voted Democrat and so should’ve gotten a Democrat runoff ballot. Instead, she was mailed a nonpartisan ballot by mistake.

“From our research, it looks like about 688 voters in Fulton County received a nonpartisan ballot where they should’ve, in fact, received a Democrat ballot,” said Gabriel Sterling with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Political consultant Fred Hicks told Winne that he has candidates in both the sheriff’s and DA races.

“It’s a huge problem,” Hicks said. “This is going to really impact, potentially impact, the vote.”

Sterling told Winne that the problem disproportionately affects Democrats in Fulton County because the Republicans have no runoffs there.

“It appears there was a data entry error somewhere in the system,” Sterling said.

He said before Channel 2 Action News contacted his office, the Fulton County elections office had notified his office of complaints from three voters.

“We went through and looked, and that’s when we discovered the 688,” Sterling said.

He told Winne that the problem affects elderly or disabled voters who checked a box on the absentee ballot application allowing them to continue receiving mail-in ballots for the rest of the election cycle.

Some 327,000 voters in counties with runoffs did the same thing.

“This accounted for about 0.2% percent of that,” Sterling said.

Sterling said the problem also affects 54 voters in eight other counties. Five of the counties do have Republican runoffs, and new ballots have now been mailed out.

“As soon as we identified the error, we worked to correct it as quickly as we possibly could,” Sterling said.

Sterling said counties do the data entry, but because the state was helping out due to COVID-19, the data entry issue was not initially spotted when the state absorbed the county data.

Sterling told Winne that the fix is already in the mail.

A Fulton County spokesperson said the county does not believe the problem was caused by its data entry, but the county’s review also turned up the 600+ number.