Fulton elections director: We’re ready

Fulton Elections Director Rick Barron

Fulton Elections Director Rick Barron

With close, high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate on the line, Fulton County’s election department likely will get an extra dose of scrutiny Tuesday. In an interview Friday, Director Rick Barron says the department is ready for its close-up.

That’s not always been the case. Two years ago long lines and other hassles sparked dozens of complaints. The Secretary of State’s Office later concluded Fulton violated numerous state election laws and mishandled the ballots of thousands of voters during the 2012 general election.

Barron, hired to clean up the mess, said he doesn’t expect a repeat of that botched election. This year the election staff will use Fulton’s Emergency Operations Center – usually reserved for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies – to oversee Tuesday’s election. The department will have 74 people answering calls and troubleshooting problems at the polls.

Barron said a push to expand early voting also will help. As of Friday, nearly 95,000 people had voted early or cast absentee ballots – more than double the number who voted early in 2010. He hopes that will take pressure off polling places Tuesday.

But election night may still be a nail-biter. Barron doesn’t expect final results until midnight or 1 a.m. That will leave candidates and voters – not to mention politicos from coast to coast – wondering whether the Georgia Senate race will give Republicans a majority or help keep it in Democratic hands.

Barron professed indifference to the extra scrutiny.

“Am I putting more pressure on myself because of that?” he said. “No. I haven’t even thought about that.”