Observer: Georgia county’s elections messy, not fraudulent

Jun 16, 2021, 3:21 PM | Updated: 4:21 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — Election processes in Georgia’s most populous county were badly managed, sloppy and chaotic, but there was no evidence of fraud, according to an independent monitor who spent many hours over several months observing county election workers.

Detailed notes kept by Carter Jones over the week of the general election in November and obtained by The Associated Press challenge many of the allegations of fraud and misconduct that have circulated since the election. They chronicle everything Jones saw in Fulton County from the evening of Monday, Nov. 2, the day before the election, through late on Saturday, Nov. 7, when the last ballots were counted.

“It’s not what it looks like during the election. It’s what happens after the election and what it looks like at the end,” Jones said in an exclusive interview with the AP on Wednesday. “Fulton was able to make their numbers zero out and there was nothing that should challenge the certification of this election.”

Jones, who was appointed to ensure the county’s compliance with a consent agreement and has previous experience working on elections in other parts of the world, said he spent nearly 270 hours observing the county’s election processes and saw no evidence of “any dishonesty, fraud or intentional malfeasance.”

After losing Georgia by about 12,000 votes, then-President Donald Trump fixated on the state. Making false claims of widespread voter fraud, he and his allies zoomed in on Fulton County, which has long had issues with its elections and has been a frequent punching bag for the GOP, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Fulton County includes most of Atlanta and reliably votes for Democrats in statewide and national elections. With roughly 822,500 active voters, the county accounts for about 11% of the state’s electorate. The county is about 46% white, 45% Black and about 8% people of Asian descent, according to U.S. Census data.

The county’s primary last June was plagued by problems, including hourslong lines and absentee ballots that were requested but never received, and the State Election Board entered into a consent order with the county to make changes for the general election. That included the appointment of Jones as an independent monitor.

In a statement Wednesday, Raffensperger noted Jones’ findings of continued problems in Fulton and said it was important to have him there as “eyes and ears on the ground.”

Jones said the election operations were characterized by systemic poor management and that there were also chain of custody problems and ballot bags that often weren’t sealed. While he realizes many of those problems contribute to some people’s doubts about the security of the election, he said the fact that he was there and “neurotically took notes” during the many hours he spent observing should provide some comfort.

He also noted that while the process was messy, the county managed to get it right in the end.

“They got it over the goal line. They made their numbers add up,” he said. “Yes, the vehicle was held together by duct tape and chewing gum, but it got over the goal line.”

Fulton County officials have consistently defended their handling of the election.

“The votes have been counted multiple times, including a hand recount, and no evidence of fraud has been found,” County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts said last month. “The fact remains that Fulton County safely and securely carried out an election in the midst of a public health crisis.”

Jones’ observations and report are also meant to help Fulton County going forward, and he noted that between the November general election and a January runoff the county made some significant improvements. But he said he hasn’t seen any change to address systemic management problems.

“Fulton needs to address these mismanagement issues because they are becoming serious,” Jones said. “I mean, the eyes of the world are on the county and, you know, they’ve got butterfingers.”

When he arrived at the elections warehouse just after 8 p.m. the night before the election, Jones wrote, he encountered a chaotic scene. County elections director Rick Barron was resetting some machines used to check in voters, some sensitive equipment was left outside on the loading dock — “Thankfully the seals were intact,” Jones noted — and Jones himself jumped in to help organize a pile of equipment bags.

On Election Day, scanners were jamming and other equipment sometimes went down, ballots weren’t always transferred as securely as they should have been, and bottlenecks at certain points meant some workers were waiting around with nothing to do only to have an overwhelming deluge of work arrive later, Jones wrote.

As the week wore on and there was intense pressure to get all the ballots counted, Jones wrote that election workers were tired and making mistakes, which led to some work needing to be done over again. Miscommunication sometimes led to confusion and Jones also had some concerns about the ways that ballots were transferred and stored.

He recognized that some of the sloppiness likely contributed to misconceptions and belief that there was fraud.

For example, he wrote that a batch of provisional ballots that had been verified at another location were wheeled in through the back door at one point on the Thursday after the election.

“Party poll watchers very interested in these ballots that just came in through the back door. The GOP poll watchers are feverishly typing on their phones now,” he wrote, adding that county officials took his suggestion to hold a news conference to explain so they wouldn’t “have a media mess on their hands.”

He also mentioned rumors, including persistent talk about “suitcases filled with ballots” that stemmed from a widely circulated video from State Farm Arena, where ballots were being tallied. Those are standard ballot bins used all over the state, he said: “So they’re not mysteries, they’re not suitcases, they’re ballots.”

Of that and other allegations that he says were easily debunked, Jones said: “At a certain point, it’s people willing to believe the worst in other people to justify a narrative that they have themselves.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A staff of Rappler monitors as Filipino journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa talks d...
Associated Press

Ressa says Philippine courts to decide Rappler closure order

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa said her Rappler news website was operating “business as usual” Wednesday and would let Philippine courts decide on a government order to close the outlet critical of the outgoing Duterte administration and its deadly drug crackdown. The Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday affirmed […]
3 hours ago
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrives for a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain on Wednesday, Ju...
Associated Press

NATO chief: Alliance faces biggest challenge since WWII

MADRID (AP) — NATO leaders were sitting down Wednesday to try to turn an urgent sense of purpose triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into action — and to patch up any cracks in their unity over money and mission. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was meeting in Madrid “in the midst of the […]
3 hours ago
South Korean Minister of Food and Drug Safety Oh Yu-Kyoung speaks during a briefing at the ministry...
Associated Press

South Korea approves first homemade COVID-19 vaccine

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Health officials in South Korea on Wednesday approved the country’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 years or older, adding another public health tool in the fight against a prolonged pandemic. In clinical trials involving some 4,000 participants in South Korea and five other countries, SK Bioscience’s two-dose […]
3 hours ago
France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands ...
Associated Press

Live updates | Biden says US boosting its military in Europe

MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the NATO summit in Madrid: ___ U.S. President Joe Biden says America’s military presence in Europe is about to get bigger, as NATO responds to the threat from Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden says the U.S. is establishing a permanent headquarters in Poland, sending two additional F-35 […]
3 hours ago
FILE - A woman is evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting on Nov. 13, 2015 in Par...
Associated Press

Verdict looms in trial over 2015 Paris extremist attacks

PARIS (AP) — Over the course of an extraordinary nine-month trial, the lone survivor of the Islamic State extremist team that attacked Paris in 2015 has proclaimed his radicalism, wept, apologized to victims and pleaded with judges to forgive his “mistakes.” For victims’ families and survivors of the attacks, the trial for Salah Abdeslam and […]
3 hours ago
FILE - A woman is evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting on Nov. 13, 2015 in Par...
Sponsored Content by

PARIS (AP) — Over the course of an extraordinary nine-month trial, the lone survivor of the Islamic State extremist team that attacked Paris in 2015 has proclaimed his radicalism, wept, apologized to victims and pleaded with judges to forgive his “mistakes.” For victims’ families and survivors of the attacks, the trial for Salah Abdeslam and […]

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Observer: Georgia county’s elections messy, not fraudulent