BOARD OF REGISTRATIONS AND ELECTIONS, FULTON COUNTY: APRIL 14TH, 2016 MEETING

In attendance:

Mary Carole Cooney (Chairperson)

Stan Matarazzo (Vice Chair, R)

David Burge (R)

Rukiya Thomas (D)

Luther Beck (D)

…..

Richard Barron (Director of Registration and Elections)

Shirley Arnold (Board Secretary)

Ralph Jones (Registration Manager)

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

Communications and Public Response

Council Member C.T. Martin (City of Atlanta): came to express his concerns from the last election. First, there were no written communications submitted to the Atlanta City Council re: poll location changes (10C, 10E, 10L). Council members wanted to know about the changes, as representatives of these districts.

Also a problem that another council member attempted to observe activities at poll locations and was told by a poll manager to mind his own business.

Another problem, in his eyes, with Director Barron’s televised presentation about the Election Day issues in Fulton County, which he felt was a very unprofessional representation of the county.

Chairwoman Cooney: has taken notes on the Councilman’s concerns and plans to address them.

Member Thomas: I was very concerned about how Election Day went. I did get calls, including one from the Mayor’s office. More came out as the day went on. I was upset by how things were handled that day, and I did not believe that we took things as seriously as we could have. We did follow up in detail on those concerns.

Wanda Dolford Johnson (sp?): I’m here to speak to some of the same issues that Mr. Martin has discussed. City of Atlanta does still want to have a forum with the staff and hopefully with the members of the board as well, to discuss moving forward. This is something that has happened repeatedly. The City of Atlanta is your biggest customer.

Patty Sheryl (sp?): I heard that there were 4,000 people that weren’t able to vote on March 1st. *Reads a letter from an elector who never was notified that her precinct was changed.* This individual had to vote provisionally. She was also told by poll workers that she would have to vote, in the general election, for whichever party she voted for in the primary (Republican or Democrat).

What is your plan? How can we have community input? How can we have verifiable voting?

Elizabeth Poythress (League of Women Voters): We’ve been having so many elections that it’s basically confusing for the public. I’m hearing the chatter about precincts [from the public]—”where do we go to vote?” We’ve changed precincts a lot in Fulton County, which is sometimes necessary, but we have other issues compounding these problems (e.g. postal service delays, elector notification delays).

The other issue is precinct changes. I just wanted to verify what the procedure is re: notifying the public of precinct changes.

Removal of Names from Voter List due to Felony Convictions

408 names removed.

Plan of Action for Voter Notification

Letter from City Council President [Ceasar Mitchell] indicated that voters not receiving notification of polling place changes was the biggest issue on Election Day.

Director Barron: Since December 2014, we’ve mailed out approximately 250,000 voter notification cards, to include precinct location notification cards. Since that time, we’ve received approximately 60k back (undeliverable for various reasons). About 30-40k were sent to good addresses and should have been delivered. The other 20k were undeliverable for a wide variety of reasons. When we met with the postal service, on those good addresses, they don’t have an explanation as to why they’re coming back to us.

The cards are produced by the Secretary of State. We order them by precinct, but when they come to us, they aren’t in precinct order. They’re in voter registration number order. When we go through them, we ensure that all the precinct locations that we ordered cards for are represented in the stack.

USPS ensured that these cards arrive within 2-3 days of mailing. However, we know that thousands of voters in fact received their cards six weeks to ten weeks after they were mailed/after the election.

[Director Barron relates USPS’s explanation for the delay]: well, a card may be dropped here or there (by USPS employees) and when someone (another employee) finds it, they pick it up and drop it in the mail, in post offices around the city. Director Barron did not find that to be a great explanation. USPS suggested the state look at the design of the precinct cards, which they believe to be the issue here. USPS also said that it would be helpful if the precinct cards had barcodes for the addresses. Director Barron thinks the state is being responsive but indicated that redesigning those cards is going to be almost impossible. The state is going to be meeting with a mail design analyst and getting a recommendation from that individual.

Member Thomas: I appreciate that we did our due diligence re: the USPS facet of this issue. But it wasn’t the only problem.

Jones: other counties had these issues too (e.g. Cobb and Dekalb). Have had precinct cards mistakenly delivered to the polling locations; that issue isn’t unique to Fulton. Have also had precinct cards with good addresses returned.

Action Plan:

Member Thomas: this plan appears to be a media & social media plan. But I don’t see anything in here that directly addresses the issues that came out of our office. Also, some of the things listed here will be very expensive to implement (e.g. voter awareness commercials).

Re: the Fickett Elementary issue, if we’re just going to send them letters telling them to vote early in the future, that seems insulting to me. We have no plans to apologize for the issue? At a high level, we should at least own the responsibility that things did not go well on Election Day. So, let’s just make sure that these letters are thoughtful to people. At the end of the day, these are residents that could be your [Director Barron’s] grandmother.

We also need to have a funding plan, to make sure that these initiatives that are listed in the action plan are affordable.

With regard to measurables, you [Director Barron] have listed “audience participation.” What does that mean? Voter turnout? [Director Barron nods.] Okay.

We need to be judging the number of complaints that we receive, as well, as another measurable.

Member Thomas: indicates that the letter send to the board of commissioners was not assumptive of enough responsibility.

Member Burge indicates that the finger-pointing in that letter was ridiculous. Offers that Chairperson Cooney was the author of the letter.

Vice Chair Matarazzo: Do we know how many voters weren’t able to vote on March 1st? There was a reference made earlier that 4,000 people weren’t able to vote, but we don’t have any record that anyone wasn’t able to vote. I don’t want information in this public forum to go out that 4,000 people weren’t able to vote, if that isn’t true. It wasn’t a perfect day [Election Day], but we have no reports that people simply weren’t able to vote at all.

Director Barron: I’m trying to figure out what happened. I don’t want to point fingers; I don’t want these problems to be happening.

Member Thomas: so, when our largest customer [City of Atlanta] reached out to you, whether it was their chief of staff or a clerk, did you convey this same sentiment? Because that customer is indicating that they did not receive an appropriate response to their concerns.

Director Barron: I do not think this is the appropriate forum to discuss this.

Chairperson Cooney: extends an apology, for her role in this. The Friday after the election, Mr. Barron, Mr. Browers, Ms. Major and I met for a couple of hours to discuss the type of report should be issued to the board of commissioners. At that time, we did not know more than 20% of what we know now [about Election Day issues]. We were becoming aware but were not fully aware that this was not an issue of individuals merely disregarding their precinct cards. Later, we were very surprised to learn about the trays of precinct cards that were not mailed in time. The board of commissioners asked for a written report and my presence at their next board meeting, and I went with what I had. I apologize for [any missteps in that regard].

Member Burge: the City is here and has said that they want to help find a solution. Let’s take them up on that offer.

Director Barron: The New Georgia Project met with Manager Jones and plan on bringing us 60k voter registration applications over the next 3-4 months.

Chairperson Cooney: isn’t registration closed for the May election?

Director Barron: April 26th is the final registration date for the May election. But, the state would like us to continue to process applications, even after the registration deadline has passed. We spoke to the state yesterday about it. Some of the other counties are not happy about it. It puts this burden on the poll workers of identifying who has registered on time and who hasn’t. Especially on Election Day, it can get complicated, because the voters can print out a voter registration card online and bring it to the polls on Election Day, even if they registered too late for this particular election.

Manager Jones: Anything that comes in prior to the deadline, whether change of address or new voter applications, will be processed. The state wants us to continue to process new applications after the voter registration deadline for the May election, to ensure that we can process all the applications submitted prior to the November election. If we don’t continue to process them on a rolling basis, there’s a chance they might not all be processed in time for the November election. That would be a long time for applications to continue to pile up.

My main concern is Election Day–that we might need to have more provisionals than we already have. Votes will not be counted on Election Day, for individuals who registered after the deadline. Also, we will have to process a lot of these applications twice.

Chairperson Cooney: expresses concern about the issues implicit in this. Is this a directive from the state?

Director Barron: it’s a “may” not a “shall” process. [Read: the counties don’t have to comply with this directive.] Dekalb County has basically said that they aren’t doing it [processing these applications after the registration deadline].

Vice Chair Matarazzo: isn’t there an issue also with Express Poll potentially being corrupted [by these late-submitted registrations, which aren’t properly filtered out]?

Manager Jones indicates yes.

Chairperson Cooney: individuals are going to see their names as “registered” in MVP [the state’s voter registration database, accessible to voters online] and they’re going to show up.

Director Barron: early voting starts May 2nd and ends May 20th. We’ll be open both weekends, both Saturdays and Sundays.

Vice Chair Matarazzo: I do recall that a lot of what they submitted last time went into various unprocessed files. What have we done to communicate to the New Georgia Project?

Manager Jones: we told NGP that we want good applications this time around. Every time you submit a bad application, you eat up my time. They actually submitted 300 applications last week. They actually had about 25 people rewrite their applications, so they could be readable. So, they’re trying. They have to, by law, submit all applications they collect though. We’ve decided with NGP that, when they bring us applications, we’re going to count these applications in front of them, to reach a consensus about how many applications are being submitted. Even if the applications submitted are numbering in the thousands, they need to wait for us to count them. They’re doing their best to do a better job than what they had done previously.

Vice Chair Matarazzo: would it be possible, when we’re doing the count, to do a preliminary audit review, to see if the applications are complete or illegible? Because we don’t have to accept bad applications. That could cut down on our processing time–if they submit 1k applications but we reject 250 out of the gate because they’re incomplete or illegible. If you catch these problems [applications that can’t be processed] before they even happen, that helps prevent issues.

Manager Jones: indicates that he will look into this.

Update on Financial Oversight

New format for the report.

 

 

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