Georgia’s Fulton County: Elections Turn out to be Extra Costly and Sophisticated Nationwide

ATLANTA – It is not cheap to have the nation’s eyes fixed on you.

Because of this, Fulton County spent a record-breaking $ 38.3 million to run the 2020 blockbuster electoral cycle. However, officials expect election costs to continue to rise.

To put the president’s $ 38 million price tag in perspective, Fulton spent $ 9.9 million in 2016 and about $ 6.1 million in 2012.

Compare the $ 11.1 million the county spent during the historic 2008 election to the $ 11.5 million the county plans to spend on the 2022 general election.

Fulton’s polling officer Richard Barron said Wednesday he expects $ 7.2 million to run this year’s local elections, which include the Atlanta mayoral contest. That doesn’t include the cost of a drain.

After a disastrous June primary – with some voters standing in line for hours, many because they never received postal ballots, because Fulton’s system was overwhelmed – the county nearly doubled the budget allocated to administering the elections.

Barron said Fulton then spent $ 18.7 million on additional staff, $ 8 million on additional equipment, $ 4.3 million on election day workers, and $ 5.2 million on postage and overtime and rent for buildings / equipment.

COVID-19 has already been a chaotic year with the largest elections roll-out in US history and has ruined all plans. Barron, who was fired and then rescued, took the blame and welcomes any help and scrutiny to improve the county’s elections.

As in other metropolitan areas, he said that many factors drove the cost and complexity: more polling stations, additional staff / equipment, record turnout, and an unprecedented number of postal ballots.

But there is something else that he expects to keep the cost of election high for taxpayers.

Republicans say they created SB 202, signed by Governor Brian Kemp, to make voting safer. The law prohibits volunteers from distributing food or water to queued voters, reduces the number of days voting must be sent by mail, requires proof of ID for mail-in votes, and limits the number of ballot boxes Fulton can use , from 38 to eight.

A majority of district commissioners, all four Democrats, voted on Wednesday for a resolution against SB 202 calling on the district attorney to look in court and other ways to combat implementation of the law.

“Every time we have a porthole on our back, we have an obligation to serve the electorate,” said Fulton Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman, who sponsored the resolution. The Southside commissioner added that she believed the bill was tantamount to suppressing voters.

“I just think it’s partisan rhetoric,” said Republican Commissioner Bob Ellis, who represents part of North Fulton.

When asked about the outcome of the bill, Barron said he and his staff are preparing to see how shortening the days for postal voting will affect the system.

“We’re going to see more people requesting absentee voting and having them canceled during the early voting process, and that will likely affect the lines,” said Barron.

Barron told electoral board members Thursday that he plans to increase election workers’ pay because of all of the new SB 202 restrictions. As if elections with 860,000 registered voters weren’t tough enough beforehand, he said it will only get more confusing.

“There will be more demand for survey managers than ever before due to some deadlines in SB 202,” he said.

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