With the U.S. Senate’s Republican majority hanging in the balance of the Jan. 5 runoff election involving both of Georgia’s seats, Fulton County is preparing for record turnout following an all-time high in the Nov. 3 general election.
The county has allocated $6.5 million just for the runoff.
“This runoff … is going to be more scrutinized than any other and will have higher turnout than any runoff in Georgia (history),” District 6 Fulton Commissioner Joe Carn said. “I think you’ll need all the staff at the polling places. The national implications of it are geometrically larger because of the Senate (implications). It affects California’s or Texas’ economy so dramatically. … So, don’t let up and don’t think you’re overspending.”
Carn spoke during an election update at the county’s board of commissioners’ Nov. 17 recess meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As it did with the Nov. 3 general election, the county will have 255 polling precincts available on Election Day in the Jan. 5 special election. Early voting is set for Dec. 14 through 30 but the polls will be closed Dec. 24 and 25.
Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections, said the runoff likely won’t match the general election in terms of the number of absentee ballots (about 260,000), but the county has already received and processed 87,000 thus far.
Of the general election, where less than 0.5% of the vote separated winner Joe Biden and runner-up Donald Trump and has questioned the Georgia results in, claiming voting irregularities occurred in some counties, Barron said he was proud of how quickly Fulton conducted the risk-limiting audit.
The county needed only a day and a half to do the hand-count of its 528,777 total votes, which ended Nov. 15. The audit would be completed later Nov. 18, Barron said, adding the State Election Board will certify the statewide election Nov. 20. A separate Fulton recount could be next since some candidates lost by a margin slim enough to request one. But the recount would be conducted by machines and not by hand.
“We had 174 teams at one point out here, doing the hand tally, but we have only seven scanners at the county, so there won’t be as many people counting this time,” Barron said.
District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann asked if the county could process all of its absentee ballots in one room at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, where Fulton has been set up since the general election. But Barron said that may not be logistically possible, and his department plans to process them in multiple places.
“Some of the processing still has to go on at the (Fulton) government center, but once it comes to the two-week period when we can scan the ballots, we can do it here,” he said, adding the county will use two rooms at the center since there’s not a big enough room there to contain it to one.