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DeKalb Elections Board won’t certify May 24 primary, can’t give accurate count in District 2 race

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DeKalb Elections Board won’t certify May 24 primary, can’t give accurate count in District 2 race

DeKalb County Voter Registration & Elections Office at 4380 Memorial Drive in greater Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb County Elections Board on Tuesday, May 31, declined to certify the results of the May 24 primary.

Certification could occur as early as Friday at 5 p.m. It’s a remarkable turn of events in an election that went relatively smoothly on Election Day, until one candidate in the DeKalb County Commission District 2 race noticed some odd results.

Initially, it was expected that the board would certify the results of the May 24 primary today when the meeting was scheduled on May 19. But the board met at noon and decided to reconvene at a special called meeting at 4:30 p.m.

The state won’t certify until next Friday, a source tells Decaturish, so there’s no immediate effect on other races in the state by DeKalb County delaying things for a few days to find answers to questions about the election. The worst immediate consequence would be a fine for VRE for missing the 5 p.m. deadline for certification.

A longer-term consequence may be the erosion of confidence in the DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Department and the Secretary of State’s ability to oversee an election that will produce an objectively credible result.

After conducting a hand-count that began Sunday afternoon and didn’t conclude until 12:30 a.m. on May 31, the DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Executive Director Keisha Smith was still unable to produce the results of the hand count of the District 2 race. Decaturish was the only media outlet in the room when the count ended at 12:30 a.m. and left when, at 2 a.m., Smith said more data entry employees were needed to finish the tally.

Smith on Tuesday afternoon again declined to provide the results of that hand count.

“I do want to report that we are not done identifying and accurate tabulation,” Smith said. “We’ve worked diligently. We have worked throughout the night, long hours, and I cannot provide today an accurate calculation or tabulation of votes. I do again just want to thank you all for supporting us through this effort. But I am not confident that what I have today is what I want to present to this board for certification.”

She asked the board to delay certification until Friday. The board’s attorney advised the board to schedule a meeting to certify the results tomorrow, June 1 even if the board ultimately could not certify the results that day. The board disagreed.

Board members also wondered whether the problems that caused the odd result in District 2 also affected the results of other races.

It is unclear whether the June 21 runoff will feature candidates Marshall Orson and Lauren Alexander or if Michelle Long Spears will garner enough additional votes to make that runoff or win the race outright.

Had Spears not raised questions on Election Night, it’s unclear whether the result would be in doubt at all. Some precincts were reporting she received zero votes – including her own precinct. Spears took pictures of the precinct-level results and showed them to Decaturish on Monday during day two of the hand count. Her supporters, including commissioners Jeff Rader and Ted Terry, began publicly raising questions about what happened.

It’s not clear exactly what caused the election board’s current predicament.

“This caught us off guard because there were adjustments all along the way. But even going into election night, the expectation was that we were wrapping up the election and moving to certification,” Elections Board Chair Dele Lowman Smith said. “How can we get to November and have assurance that we’re not going to be in the same situation because we don’t have an audit trail for documentation … because things have been verbal? I am not certain that it’s going to be the best use of the couple of days we have to try to solve that mystery.”

Here’s what is known so far.

Don Broussard dropped out of the race for the DeKalb Commission District 2 seat. That withdrawal caused a mistake in the programming of the precinct scanner and led to inaccurate vote counts for two candidates. The SOS office also said the text of one Republican Party question was not properly appearing during early voting, and five precincts in DeKalb were redistricted into the county commission District 2 race, but those precincts had not been updated to reflect that change.

Those issues resulted in the creation of new databases for the May 24 election. The databases map out ballot styles and precincts for voters.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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