Georgia is not recommended to take over Fulton County’s elections, a panel appointed by the State Election Board said.
The panel observed substantial improvements in Fulton County elections and identified several areas for further improvements.
It’s not recommended for the state of Georgia to replace the Fulton County Election Board, the panel concluded.
“Replacing the board would not be helpful and would in fact hinder the ongoing improvements to Fulton County elections,” the Performance Review Board said in a report (pdf) on Friday.
The report was first obtained by Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Fulton County—where most of Atlanta city is located and one of every ten voters of Georgia lives—is known for election-related issues. After its chaotic primary election in June 2020, the State Election Board was pressed to appoint Seven Hills Strategies, a consulting company, to review the elections in Fulton County.
Besides the hiring of Seven Hills Strategies, the Georgia State Election Board also established a Performance Review Board on Aug. 18, 2021, to conduct a comprehensive review of Fulton County elections after the Peach State passed a sweeping election law SB 202 in March 2021.
SB 202 allows the state election authority to establish a review board per request from certain parties and suspend up to three county-level elections boards for at least nine months.
Three officials were appointed to the Performance Review Board including Stephen Day, member and former chair of the Gwinnett County Board of Elections; Ryan Germany, general counsel for the Office of the Secretary of State; and Rickey Kittle, chair of the Catoosa County Board of Elections.
Findings of the Panel Report
The Performance Review Board said that the three members contributed hundreds of hours to observe the Fulton County elections after the panel was set up.
The Carter Center also contributed around 4,000 people-hours to these efforts.
They observed “significant improvement from the 2020 election” and gave positive reviews about the works of the County Manager’s Office in Fulton County and the elections staff.
Several areas were identified by the panel to improve further.
Poll officials need more training to understand the benefits of checking seals and properly filling out recap sheets. The officials also need more training for related procedures.
The county also needs to ensure that all memory cards with votes are uploaded.
“In the May 2022 Primary Election, just like in the November 2021 Municipal Election, the Secretary of State’s office noticed that Fulton County did not upload all memory cards that contained votes,” reads the panel report. “… it’s something that should not have happened and, at the very least, should have been caught with basic reconciliation checks.”
The panel urged the Fulton County Elections Board to complete the suggested improvements before the 2024 presidential election cycle.
“Georgia will be a competitive state in next year’s elections, so election preparation needs to recognize that Fulton County’s actions … will be heavily scrutinized by political parties, campaigns, candidates, and activist groups,” the panel said.