The Georgia secretary of state’s office on Tuesday announced it is investigating the flooding that delayed vote counting on Election Day in a Democratic county that includes Atlanta, and an incident in which Republican poll-watchers left after being told counting was done for the night but it later continued.
Gabe Sterling, voting system implementation manager for the state, said an independent monitor found there was “generally bad management” in Fulton County’s handling of absentee ballots. The county could be fined $50,000 for violations, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Our main thing is we want to make sure they run elections properly,” Sterling said of the possible fine.
Election officials in Fulton first said a pipe burst in a room of the State Farm Arena where absentee ballots were being held, then later said it was a leaky toilet.
Fulton elections head Richard Barron earlier said, “It looked really like there was rain coming out of the ceiling and the entire carpeting was just covered in water.”
He said Tuesday the county “welcome[s] anything they want to look at.” He claimed the announcement of the investigations was an effort to deflect criticism away from the secretary of state’s office, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The investigations come as the state is finishing a statewide recount in a close presidential election with President-elect Joe Biden leading President Trump by a little under 13,000 votes, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Republican poll watchers left the State Farm Arena where Fulton County ballots were being tabulated around 10:30 p.m. election night after officials said counting would stop.
Barron said he sent most poll workers home, including those whose fatigue made them “counter-productive,” but a few remained and continued counting until around 1 a.m. even though the Republican poll watchers had left.
Republicans were allowed to review tape of what occurred while they were gone, there was an independent monitor watching the count and Republicans witnessed the recount over the weekend, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Democratic officials in Fulton have frequently butted heads with Republican state officials over elections but the infighting was exacerbated by the June primary, which was marred by long lines and undelivered ballots.