“You couldn’t get any results, and you had to go to the state level to do it,” said former county Commissioner Butch Thompson. “In somebody’s wisdom they decided that they didn’t want Cobb County to have the election results so normal people could see where we’re at. I don’t know why it now has to come under state control. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I found it real frustrating.”
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), added: “Something needs to be done. Cobb used to be one of the counties that always had the earliest results coming in. At some point, people will start to question the process when you have that long of a delay.”
Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler was doing things by the book and ensuring that the numbers posted were accurate, and she deserves credit for that.
“Everything went according to plan,” Eveler told the MDJ the next day. “We felt very good about the whole process. Our processes worked great.”
And she explained that many polling places still had people in line at 7 p.m. and that those polls could not close until those people had finished voting. Some polls thus didn’t close until after 8 p.m., she said. But her office was unable to say at the time how many of Cobb’s 153 polling places were affected or where they were.
When the polls did close, machines and memory cards then had to be driven from each polling place to a prep center in Kennesaw, rather than uploading it from each location. Once in Kennesaw, the memory cards from the polling places are driven to Marietta to be tabulated.
The Cobb Board of Elections last year discontinued the practice of electronically uploading the info directly from the polling places because Cobb was the only county still doing so and was finding it ever more difficult to get technical support from the state.
That explains part of the reason for the slow results. But Eveler was unable to report even the early voting returns shortly after the polls closed, despite the fact that early voting ended last Friday.
“Our early, in-person machines were still being closed down,” she said. Why the delay?
Meanwhile, Cobb’s results were very slow to show on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website that evening; some of the slowest in the metro area, in fact. That’s because Eveler’s department did not get the necessary formatting information in time from the Secretary’s office, she said. Secretary Brian Kemp spent $230,000 on the new system. But results were reported at a glacial pace early in the evening, with none at all showing on that department’s web site for what seemed like forever. Hopefully, Tuesday’s experience can be written down as a “shakeout cruise” with better performance delivered next time from that system.
When Cobb and other localities began switching from paper ballots to computerized voting several decades ago, the assumption was that faster returns would be the result. But then there are nights like last Tuesday that seem to prove the adage that, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”