By JAMES SWIFT
The Bartow County Board of Elections and Voter Registration certified the results of the Nov. 3 general election at a public meeting on Friday evening.
But as Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk noted, the board will be reconvening very soon to recertify the local presidential election results.
“After seeing the audit today I can already tell you that we’re going to have to recertify these results at the end of the audit,” he told board members, referencing the first day of a statewide audit that began in Bartow County on Friday afternoon. “Once I have the audit finished, I will get in touch with ya’ll — that recertification process, it will be next week.”
The board similarly voted unanimously to approve certification of the results of three municipal-level elections from earlier this month — Cartersville’s senior school tax exemption ballot item, Euharlee’s election to determine an at-large city council seat and the results of Adairsville’s six-person city council race, which ultimately produced a runoff election scheduled to be held on Dec. 1.
Greg Free defeated Ron Scifers 1,221 votes to 816 in the Euharlee race, while City of Cartersville residents voted 7,466 to 2,283 to approve the senior school tax exemption. The top two vote-getters in Adairsville’s city council race were Brandey Jenkins (632 votes) and Ahmad Hall (533 votes.)
For the most part, Kirk said Bartow County fared quite smoothly on Election Day, noting that the Dominion paper-backed electronic voting system functioned very well.
“The only thing really of note from Election Day to report to you is we did have an incident at one of the polling places where somebody showed up with an assault rifle in the parking lot,” he said. “Law enforcement showed up, informed him what the law said and he left without a complaint — so everything seemed to go pretty well with that.”
Board member Dexter Benning also said he’s heard reports that at least two people, who were not law enforcement officials, carried firearms into local polling places. Kirk said that’s the first he’s heard of such accusations.
“If we need to look at that, we can,” he said.
Benning also said there were some instances of voters making it into the county’s polls while wearing campaign apparel.
“I know there were a few things that were missed, we can only respond to what we see,” Kirk said. “If somebody sees something, please tell us so we can do our jobs and we’ll take care of it.”
Bartow County Assistant Elections Supervisor Cheryl Billard said the local elections office accumulated well over 50 provisional ballots during the general election, of which roughly 30 were officially counted.
“In canvassing this election, we discovered there were two provisional ballots that were to be counted that didn’t get put in the counting pile, so those have been included in the results now,” Kirk said.
Of the 28 provisional ballots cast in Bartow that were not officially counted, 16 involved individuals who were not registered to vote. Nine involved individuals who were registered to vote in other counties and three involved individuals who did not provide photo identification.
“We saw a much lower number of rejected absentee ballots than we normally see, mostly because the State redesigned the envelope and made it easier for people to fill out,” Kirk said. “So we weren’t rejecting them for technical reasons, we’re just comparing the signature.”
Several provisional ballots that were ultimately accepted, Billard said, were initially held up due to data entry errors in other counties.
“Some of the larger counties seem to have outsourced, and I know that they do this, to temp agencies some of the data entry,” she said. “So some data entry in the state were varied on their end when they transferred our voters over with a similar name — so they had to vote provisionally until we could get them transferred back. So that accounted for, I think, five ballots, which that’s the highest I’ve ever seen of that.”
In total, Bartow County posted a 68.11% turnout rate for the 2020 general election. While that is lower than the 2016 presidential election turnout — which stood at over 76% — the total number of ballots cast in 2020 (50,678) eclipses the total number of ballots cast in 2016 (39,855) by more than 10,000 votes.
Furthermore, Bartow County added more than 20,000 new registered voters over the last four years. The number in 2016 was 52,253; in 2020, the number stands at 74,409.
“It seems to me that the opt-out voter registration — where you get registered unless you opt out at DDS — that seems to be having a huge effect on making sure people are registered,” Billard said.
Amidst allegations and accusations of voter fraud — including claims of widespread electoral wrongdoing made by President Donald Trump — Kirk said he’s hopeful that such concerns can be catalysts to update some of Georgia’s laws and change elections administration protocols.
Still, Kirk said Bartow County voters should have no worries about their votes not counting for the candidates they selected.
“If you’re voting in-person or voting through the mail, you can print out a paper ballot, you can see for yourself who you voted for, and when you scan it in the box, nobody can change it,” he said. “We’re auditing 100% of the ballots that were cast in the presidential race — and if anything, that should vindicate the voting system.”