ATLANTA, Ga. — Elections officials in Fulton County will spend the next three weeks beefing up security at polling sites to stave off voter intimidation during the Nov. 3 election.
During an Oct. 6 County Commission meeting, Fulton County Chief Operating Officer Anna Roach said the county is collaborating with state and federal elections officials as well as local law enforcement agencies to build a detailed security plan for more than 250 local voting sites.
The measure is an undertaking aimed at allaying recent fears of voter suppression and harassment at the polls on Election Day.
“If anyone has been paying attention to news reports over the last several weeks, there is a heightened sense that public safety may be at risk associated with our upcoming election,” Roach told commissioners. “And while you can’t predict everything, we would like to be as prepared as we possibly can for whatever might come.”
Those fears are largely spurred by national politics with Georgia seen as an increasingly pivotal state in the presidential election.
On top of that, President Donald Trump has for months speculated mail-in ballots will cause widespread voter fraud. He repeated those claims during the Sept. 29 presidential debate, telling poll watchers to keep a watchful eye.
“This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen,” he said during the debate.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very, very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” Trump added later.
Roach said Fulton County officials are planning for the worst and taking measures to secure and protect government facilities and the IT infrastructure.
Fulton’s Registration and Elections Board has worked with a contractor to provide security at some polling locations in the past. Roach said they are looking to enhance that to make sure all polling locations are secure.
County leaders began last week with partners from the Atlanta Fulton Emergency Management Agency as well as leaders in all 15 incorporated cities to develop a security plan. Roach said they will continue to meet for the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the county has launched a new mobile app as part of a campaign urging voters to hit the polls early or vote by absentee ballot.
Fulton’s early voting period began Oct. 12 and continues through Oct. 30 at some 30 locations, eight of them spread around Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Roswell and Milton.
“We will have more early voting locations open than Gwinett, DeKalb and Cobb counties combined so our voters are being enfranchised in a way that none of the other counties are providing to their voters,” Registration & Elections Director Richard Barron said.
About 180,000 absentee ballots have already been mailed out, and the county has 37 absentee ballot drop boxes in place with plans to install one more. Elections officials say they have received 36,000 absentee ballots so far and hope to get at least 160,000 votes submitted that way by election day.
Long lines, hours-long waits at polling places and unaccounted absentee ballots marred Fulton County’s June 9 primary election.
The county had 164 polling sites then but has increased to 255 for Nov. 3. Barron said most of them have been whittled down to less than 5,000 assigned voters for election day and urged voters to check their designated polling sites.
“We have purchased so much equipment, especially like poll pads to check in voters, that we are going to process voters much quicker than we have in any election since I’ve been here,” he said.