An alarm went off at a warehouse containing Fulton County election ballots recently, but none of them were stolen or compromised, officials said.
An outer door at the warehouse, located on English Street in Atlanta’s west Midtown community, was opened May 29, triggering an alarm, said Robb Pitts, the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ chair.
“While the sheriff’s department is still investigating this matter, the most important thing we know for a fact right now is that the room where the ballots were kept was never breached or compromised,” Pitts said. “… The ballots remain safe despite what some would have you believe. Now because of current litigation, I am unable to disclose much beyond that critical fact.”
He and Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat spoke at a June 1 news conference outside the warehouse about the incident.
“The facts are that an alarm went off on Saturday, and apparently there were off-duty Douglas County deputies that were aware of the alarm and made a security check,” Labat said. “Whether it was right or wrong, improper or otherwise, is yet to be determined, but during that security check they found a door that was unlocked.”
He said an inner steel door, which weighs 75 to 100 pounds and leads to the room where the ballots are kept, was not breached, adding the ballots “have been secured.”
“The video evidence will show the actual deputies entered the building, but it’s also noteworthy that the actual ballots are behind a secondary door that is locked with a secondary alarm which is independent of the alarm that went off,” Labat said.
He said Fulton hires the off-duty Douglas sheriff deputies through a third-party company, TNT, adding he contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Douglas Sheriff Tim Pounds about the incident.
Labat said the alarm that was triggered is a motion sensor alarm, and when asked by a reporter if he considered this case a false alarm, he said yes.
When asked if Fulton deputies were supposed to be there patrolling the warehouse area, Labat said, “That’s under investigation. There was a shift that left prior to the actual alarm going off, and we’re trying to ascertain that.”
Later he said the sheriff’s office is looking at the surveillance video footage it has for the warehouse and surrounding area.
“There are additional cameras,” Labat said. “I do applaud the Fulton County IT team. They’ve been proactive about that. … The footage we’ve viewed is on the exterior of the building, and the rest will be part of the investigation.”
At the board’s June 2 meeting at Assembly Hall in downtown Atlanta, District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann called the situation “an incident with an unlocked door and (staff) leaving” without locking it.
She asked if Richard Barron, Fulton’s elections and registration director, if he is confident the county has adequate security at its facilities and if it has “adequate protocols in place for folks to lock the doors when they leave.” She added that since the county has previously “housed millions of dollars in election equipment” in the warehouse, it’s a concern.
“Barron said yes to both questions, adding, “Those areas of that building, we share that with other departments. They are armed with cameras. Those areas were not accessed.”