Editor’s note: Fulton County’s Registration and Elections board was widely criticized for voting problems during the 2012 election. Reporter Newspapers asked the county’s new elections director why residents should expect things to be better in 2013.
Elections are a conglomerate of moving parts. You have voters, poll workers, county elections staff, county departments, municipalities, candidates, boards that oversee registration, and elections offices and elected officials trying to work in sync. With people at the center of the spokes, as imperfect as we are, it’s a wonder successful elections happen.
In addition to bureaucracy and people involved in an election, statutory requirements govern the process.
Having worked in three different counties in two states on the government side of elections, and 37 counties spanning eight states with two election system vendors, I have seen my share of smooth elections.
When I was the elections administrator for Williamson County, Tex., for more than six years, I oversaw 31 successful elections. I know what it takes to administer a successful election.
A successful or smooth election is different from a perfect election. I am unaware of anyone that has seen a perfect election. Election offices can have internal miscommunications; poll workers can misinterpret instructions; a piece of electronic equipment can malfunction; or, a myriad of other miscues can occur.
How you manage issues that arise during an election is what separates counties that succeed from those that underperform.
Fulton County has the charge of administering elections for many municipalities. Concerns have been raised as to whether the Department of Registration and Elections can run a smooth election for the political jurisdictions of the county.
This department has had six directors since 2007, including me. During that time, municipal elections have run smoothly. In addition, in 2009-2010, during the tenure of one director, the Registration and Elections department conducted smooth elections across the board.
In spite of several challenges that are looming with regard to the state of Georgia’s new voter registration system, ElectioNet, I emphatically believe that we are going to run a successful election.
In July, Fulton County migrated from the old statewide voter registration system, Legacy, to ElectioNet. Post-migration has been a major challenge for us. We are, however, moving closer to ensuring that the data for our voters is correct.
The issues we have with ElectioNet are far from unique to us. From what I have discovered, other metro counties and most counties across the state are having issues.
Even Kennesaw State University, the institution that builds the ballots and programs the elections for counties, is frustrated by ElectioNet. They need our data to build our ballots. Whether the data is sound, they are going to build our ballot.
Last week we finished entering reapportionment changes and exceptions in our voter registration database. Now, our Geographic Information Systems department is underway auditing that data. Once we receive the results of the GIS audit, we will send the results to each municipality in order for each jurisdiction to reconcile the data.
I am confident that these audits and the reconciliation process will result in sound data.
We are changing the way we are training poll workers, too. Poll workers are so important to the success of our elections. They are the face of our department. We have the responsibility to train them professionally, to respect their efforts, and to provide them with the tools to succeed.
My staff shares commonalties with the counties to which I referred above, those where I have witnessed smooth elections. They are dedicated, hard-working, smart-working, proactive, and able to adapt and react to changing circumstances.
When you combine our efforts to reconcile our voter registration data, our commitment to deliver quality training to poll workers, and the quality and character of my staff, I am confident that we are going to run a smooth, successful municipal general election.
Richard L. Barron is the director of the Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections.