BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, FULTON COUNTY: MARCH 17TH, 2016 MEETING

In attendance: 

Ms. Mary Carole Cooney (Chairwoman, I)

Mr. Stan Matarazzo (Vice Chair, R)

Mr. David J. Burge (Member, R)

Ms. Rukiya S. Thomas (Member, D)

Mr. Luther W. Beck (Member, D)

…..

Shauna Dozier (Registration Chief)

Richard L. Barron (Director, Registration & Elections)

Ralph Jones (Registration Manager)

Elizabeth Poythress (President, League of Women Voters of Georgia)

Richard Lankford (former Fulton County Sheriff who has qualified to run for that office again)

Removal of Names from Voter List Due to Felony Conviction/Non-Citizenship

575 names removed due to felony conviction.

73 letters sent out. Heard back from 19 who have proven citizenship. Reached out three separate times to these people, to make sure. No response at all from 54. 54 names removed due to lack of citizenship.

Member Burge: how do people get on this list? Lack of documentation?

Manager Jones: yes. We still don’t know how people got to be active but non-citizens.

Poythress: we have someone who just arrived who has received a letter for proving citizenship.

Chairwoman Cooney: we don’t want anyone removed who shouldn’t be. Motion to table item 4 so Manager Jones can investigate this matter.

Manager Jones: [the individual who appeared before the board proved his citizenship.]

Chairwoman Cooney: 53 names removed from the rolls.

Monthly Operations Report (presented by Director Barron)

We conducted early voting + HD 58 runoff in February. About 17,000 new voter registrations.

Manager Jones: deadline to stop entering applications for the general primary is April 24th. Can’t enter until the first week of August, after the runoff. And then we have to make sure they’re all entered before the November election.

The Secretary of State asked us to stop the practice of removing names from the rolls due to inactivity.

Presidential Preference Primary Election Day Events (presented by Director Barron)

Had 207 polling locations open on time. 307,000 early votes cast. About 2,611 provisional ballots. 1570 poll workers for 207 precincts.

We want to get the provisional ballot number down further, but most were cast because individuals tried to vote at the wrong precinct.

Four precincts: accounted for 692 of the 2,611. Two were University precincts, which have either exclusive or high student populations. Most of the students were registered voters but were registered somewhere else in the state.

For the two non-university locations (Adamsville and N.Fulton): they’re both early voting sites, so people think they should be able to vote there on E-Day as well.

We really try to inform voters that they need to vote at their actual E-Day precinct, because it really holds up the process and the lines when they don’t.

Chairwoman Cooney: election night, we resolved that we would have an action plan of specific recommendations to address this.

Problems the board ran into on Election Day

Precinct cards are the root of the issue. 81 polling places changed between November 2014 and March 2016. 17 more than the average during that 18 month period.

The issues revolved around voters casting ballots outside of assigned precincts or unable to determine the verbiage on the signs out in front of polls. A number of polling places had signs out that indicated that a particular group of voters had to go vote somewhere else–but then all voters (even those who weren’t supposed to go to the new location) would go there.

Member Burge: the issue with the signs is that they listed the precinct numbers. E.g. if you vote in precinct 7A, go to x location. People know their polling place a lot more than their precinct number.

Director Barron: yeah, we’re going to have to figure out a better plan.

Member Thomas: may be as simple as just listing the polling place name on the sign.

Director Barron: we’ve already been discussing what we can do. We’ll figure something out.

Member Beck: we’ve discussed before the idea of changing the appearance of the precinct cards so people don’t throw them out. Is that happening?

Director Barron: yeah. We can mail those out as soon as the polling place change is completed by the board. But we need to do a subsequent mailing which is gonna cost more money. We need to come up with some way to distinguish these mailers. Postcards or letter. Neon so they don’t get thrown away, maybe? With social media and websites/press releases, we can try to get the word out.

Most of the calls we get on Election Day are: where do I vote?

Member Matarazzo: could we prepare a list of affected voters by precincts, that we could mail to candidates in these elections, who then could also inform voters of precinct location changes?

Director Barron: good idea.

Matarazzo: [Motions to Lankford (in audience)]: is that something you could do?

Lankford: yes. Precinct changes we could do. Not the whole list–but changes.

Director Barron: we found out that a couple precinct cards had postmarks of February 2nd and didn’t reach the voters until March 14th. 42 days to get somewhere in the county via first class mail. All the precinct cards go to the Crown Road USPS location. First class mail should be 2-3 days.

Member Burge: we verified internally that a card existed for each of these voters, right? That a card was dispatched.

Director Barron: here’s how it works. We order the precinct cards. They come to us, not in precinct order but in voter registration number order. We audit some by pulling them out. Once we do that, Manager Jones takes them personally to Crown Road. There are no images of them. There’s no way to track them. I’d love to have some sort of image, where we could send them through an imager or something.

Member Burge: so we internally verified that we sent cards for everyone?

Manager Jones: what we do is we have a ballpark number of how many precinct cards we should have based on the number of precinct changes we made. We check to make sure those numbers are roughly similar and we’ll make sure we have a card or two from each precinct. Once we receive them, we know approximately how many cards we should get, and if the number is within about 50, we’ll go ahead and mail them.

Member Burge: this is an issue that’s a chronic problem. The Secretary of State and the post office are gonna do their business their way. Our challenge is to figure out how to manage that and adapt to it rather than fight it and complain about it. These other agencies are gonna do what they do, and mail recipients are gonna do what they do–we need to figure out how to work with that.

Director Barron: some of these polling changes were made 6-7 months ago. Decision was made to hold off on mailing until closer to the election. Partially to avoid the Christmas mailing spree [when individuals are even more likely to toss what appears to be junk mail]. The cards do look like junk mail. The commissioner admitted she threw her card out once. The solution at this point may be a mailer in an envelope that catches the eye.

As far as those signs, we’re going to put the Fulton county logo on them and maybe my signature as well.

Plan of action for what the board is going to do to fix these issues 

Chairwoman Cooney: Do we need specific authorization of anything today, to proceed? We’re talking about the November election. The kinds of problems we encountered are those that arise for general election and we’re not expecting the same problems in the same volume at all during the May 24th election.

Director Barron: maybe the best thing to do would be to give the board members electronic copies of the communications plan [which lists suggested fixes], to give them a chance to review it.

Moved and seconded to table item 8 until the board can consider and review the plan.

Member Matarazzo, Member Thomas, and Chairwoman Cooney vote in favor; Member Beck and Member Burge abstain.

Approval of Contracts to Conduct Special Elections for the City of Alpharetta and the Fulton County Board of Education on May 24, 2016 

Contracts approved.

 

 

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