Some Buckhead polling places were among those in Fulton County that saw technology glitches or set-up delays that caused a temporary shift to paper ballots as voting began Nov. 3, officials said in an Election Day press conference.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said he was among those who had to vote with a provisional ballot due to a set-up delay when a moving company backed out of a deal to deliver voting equipment. “It was seamless, no problem…,” Pitts said of that temporary issue at his polling place at Buckhead Cathedral of St. Philip on Peachtree Road.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts speaks during an Election Day press briefing held via Zoom. Pitts had to vote by provisional ballot due to a voting machine set-up delay.

Morris Brandon Elementary School on Margaret Mitchell Drive in Buckhead had a technology glitch — which election officials could not immediately specify — that forced a temporary use of paper ballots. That issue was resolved by 10 a.m., said Rick Barron, the county’s director of registrations and elections.

Barron and County Manager Dick Anderson said the issue with the moving contractor came at the last minute without notice. “They basically just said that they didn’t have any staff to help us move,” said Barron, forcing officials to scramble to deliver voting machines to “in excess of 30” polling places.

Despite that challenge, Barron said, only one polling place got the equipment late, and only 4 minutes after the 7 a.m. opening; that was Pitts’s voting location at the Cathedral of St. Philip. Pitts said that he was able to vote right away, but some fellow voters chose to wait about 15 minutes until the machines were set up.

Barron said the moving contractor was hired because of a COVID-19 outbreak in October among staff members at a county election supply warehouse. That outbreak limited the in-house staff available for such services. Barron and Anderson said there was no indication of a political motive for the moving contractor to back out.

Rick Barron, Fulton County’s director of registration and elections, sports a “Vote” mask while preparing to speak at an Election Day press briefing.

As for technology glitches, Barron said they were largely issues with scanners or the poll pads that are used to check in voters. He said the glitches were resolved with technology that allows technicians to remotely access the devices or by instructing poll workers to restart the equipment.

Barron said that the technology is more complicated with the new voting system introduced in Georgia this year, which has four individual devices for checking in, voting, printing and scanning. Barron said that “when you have a lot of technology in the field — in this case, iPads, printers, touch screens, scanners — you have the possibility of inoperability… There are four components, where with our previous voting system we had one component.”

Election officials emphasized that the glitches and delays were minor, and they had good news as well. They said no long lines were reported at any county polls as of 10 a.m. Barron credited the county’s extensive early voting and absentee voting for reducing lines. Barron said the situation looked similar to the 2016 presidential election, when there was a steady flow of voters, but he added that attendance could increase after 5 p.m.

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.