Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Voting irregularities reported in Candler Park

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Voters this morning at Epwoth United Methodist Church in Candler Park
  • Joeff Davis
  • Voters this morning at Epwoth United Methodist Church in Candler Park

Some voters in Candler Park, home to some of the city's most civically active and engaged voters, are receiving the wrong ballots, adding a wrinkle to what many had hoped to be a relatively smoother Election Day than in past years.

Kate Sandhaus of the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization tells us that some voters who arrive at Epwoth United Methodist Church are being given ballots listing races for different Atlanta City Council and Atlanta Public Schools board districts.

She's heard from numerous Candler Park voters who typically vote at the church who say they were given ballots asking them to decide the APS District 3 race, in which Matt Westmoreland is running unopposed, and the heated City Council District 5 race between incumbent Natalyn Archibong, Christian Enterkin, Matt Rinker, and J.P. Michalik.

The only problem: those voters are supposed to actually decide the APS District 1 race between incumbent Brenda Muhammad and Leslie Grant. City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who represents the district, is running unopposed.

It appears that Lake Claire residents who vote at the church and people who normally cast ballots at Mary Lin Elementary, which is undergoing renovations and unable to serve today as a polling location, are not affected.

Sandhaus says poll workers were notified around 7:40 a.m. about the problem. She claims that some told the ballot casters to contact the Fulton County Elections Office, which is handling the municipal and APS elections. She says she contacted the Elections Office and was told someone would get back to her later today, but she insisted that she speak with someone. A county elections official is now at the church.

It's unclear how many people might have cast ballots in the wrong races. Sandhaus says she's received "several dozen" emails from people who were given the wrong ballot.

"We are going to be assembling a list of names of people who got the wrong ballot and mistakenly voted or who had to ask the poll workers for help," she says.

Some candidates have also swarmed the polling place.

"It's very unfortunate that people can't rely on the process," says City Councilman Aaron Watson.

Enterkin, who is running in a heated four-way race for the seat that represents Lake Claire, East Atlanta, and Kirkwood, is also the church. She's demanding a new election.

"I question this entire election," she said. " You have voters who can't find my name on the ballot... I want a full investigation why my name was not on some ballots. I want a new election. I demand a new election."

Sandhaus says that some voters, as of around 10:45 a.m., were still being handed incorrect ballots. State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, who lives in the neighborhood, was handed one of them. He tells CL that he had to vote with a provisional ballot.

State Senator Jason Carter seals his provisional ballot this morning in Candler Park.
  • Joeff Davis
  • State Senator Jason Carter seals his provisional ballot this morning in Candler Park.

"We walked in to vote together, gave poll workers our information, and we recognized we were about to vote in the wrong school board and city council races," he says.

There's a reason, aside from the serious issues of voting irregularities, that people are paying very close attention to the issue. In local elections, every vote counts. And the race between Muhammad and Grant has been heated and is expected to be close.

Suzanne Mitchell, campaing manager for Atlanta Public Schools board District 1 candidate Leslie Grant, speaks with election officials
  • Joeff Davis
  • Suzanne Mitchell, campaign manager for Atlanta Public Schools board District 1 candidate Leslie Grant, speaks with election officials

"This is not an isolated case of one or two people getting the wrong ballot," Sandhaus says. "It's basically people at Candler Park who typically vote at Epworth."

"This particular precinct is high turnout. We will have to see at the end of the day what happened."

The CPNO is urging voters to visit the polls later in the day if possible. Those who do come to the polls are reminded to check and be sure their ballot lists the correct races. If that's not the case, poll workers should be immediately notified.

If you notice problems at the polls, immediately tell the poll workers or contact Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office at (877) 725-9797. Or send us a line.

Additional reporting by Joeff Davis

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