Fulton election workers accused of shredding voter registration applications

By: - October 11, 2021 7:59 pm

Two Fulton County election workers have been fired following allegations that they destroyed voter registration applications in advance of the state’s Nov. 3 municipal elections. Early voting starts Tuesday for municipal elections across Georgia. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder (File 2020)

Two Fulton County election workers fired for allegedly shredding voter registration applications before Tuesday’s start to municipal elections is the latest controversy dogging a county already under fire as the state investigates potential election mismanagement. 

Fulton officials announced Monday that they referred the case to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis after terminating the employees on Friday, the same day election staff informed a supervisor that the workers destroyed 300 paper voter registration applications received within the past two weeks. 

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger lambasted Fulton election officials on Monday for what he says are repeated failures going back many years. 

He said his office is investigating the alleged shredding of the registration applications, which he could add as another reason for a separate ongoing investigation that could result in the state taking control of Fulton elections.

In Georgia, municipal early voting begins Tuesday, including a combative race for mayor in Atlanta.  

“After 20 years of documented failure in Fulton County elections, Georgians are tired of waiting to see what the next embarrassing revelation will be,” said Raffensperger. “The Department of Justice needs to take a long look at what Fulton County is doing and how their leadership disenfranchises Fulton voters through incompetence and malfeasance. The voters of Georgia are sick of Fulton County’s failures.”

Voters with questions can contact their registration offices and unregistered voters in the upcoming election can cast provisional ballots that undergo further review after the polls close. 

Georgians can check the status of their voter registration at the state’s My Voter Page.

It is unclear how many legitimate applications were destroyed and what motivated the shredding.

“Instead of fully processing them, in some instances the employees allegedly shredded some of the forms,” a Fulton County statement says. “Fellow employees reported this behavior to their supervisor on Friday morning and the employees were terminated the same day.”

Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts said the county took quick action, turning over the case to the district attorney and informing the secretary of state.

“Elections are the most important function of our government,” he said. “We have committed to transparency and integrity.

Election law attorney Bryan Sells said the election workers might have shredded applications they thought were already in the system or those that appeared to be duplicates or clearly fake. 

“It’s too soon to know for sure whether this is a big deal, but my hunch is that it is not,” Sells said. “Sounds like incompetence rather than malevolence, and this is the kind of thing for which we have provisional ballots.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate too much on the consequences for the employees,” Sells added. “Obviously, those consequences could be serious if there’s evidence that they acted malevolently.”

Either way, the case could represent another setback for Pitts and fellow Democrats in their ongoing fight to stop the state from temporarily replacing local election supervisors due to a pattern of Fulton election-related problems. 

This fall, Fulton became the first county in the state to be investigated by an independent review board after Republican legislators helped pass the state’s new sweeping voting law in March.

Kelly Loeffler, former Georgia GOP U.S. senator, said Monday that her voter accountability organization, Greater Georgia, would try to uncover compromised voter applications using its registration records.

Some Republican candidates and elected officials called on congressional Democrats to support a federal investigation.

“The continued incompetence and lawlessness in Fulton County cannot stand,” Greater Georgia tweeted.

Since the Nov. 3, 2020 election, Fulton has drawn a harsh national spotlight, fueled by baseless conspiracy theories gaining traction due to the record use of absentee ballots due to the pandemic. A group of Fulton voters continues to press a complaint in court that asks for a chance to “audit” absentee ballots. Raffensperger’s office has debunked claims that poll workers at State Farm Arena improperly pulled suitcases of absentee ballots out from under counting tables.

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been criticized by Pitts for their attempt to discredit the results of the 2020 presidential election with lies about widespread fraud.

Raffensperger repeatedly assured the public that the 2020 election’s security was the best in the state’s history, which included several recounts.

Still, while Fulton’s election results were accurate, he said, an independent monitor who spent several months observing their election operations called it “badly managed, sloppy and chaotic.”

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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