COBB COUNTY, Ga. - In Cobb County, an investigation by election officials revealed that ballots for more than 1,000 residents voting by absentee were never mailed out.
Cobb County elections officials are paid for overnight delivery of 83 ballots to out-of-state voters, including pre-paid return envelopes, and advised anyone waiting on a ballot should vote in person on Tuesday.
Elections and Registrations Director Janine Eveler said new staff made an error by not following procedures. Investigators determined 1,046 requests went unfulfilled.
"I am sorry that this office let these voters down," Eveler said in a message to the Board of Elections and Registration. "Many of the absentee staff have been averaging 80 or more hours per week, and they are exhausted. Still, that is no excuse for such a critical error."
A 2022 absentee ballot mailed in Georgia. (FOX 5 Atlanta)
"We are privileged as Americans to get to vote, and you’re offering a service, and we applied for that service … a ‘human error’ unfortunately took that away from those people," Cobb County voter Diane Norris said in a phone interview with FOX 5 Atlanta.
Norris said she and her husband were among the hundreds who planned on voting by-mail to participate in this year’s election.
"We knew we couldn’t go Tuesday in-person because we both had commitments…one vote can make a difference…so yeah, when these ballots didn’t come in both my husband and I were concerned," she explained.
Cobb County election officials said in response to a number of similar reports, staff members shipped 277 absentee ballots with pre-paid overnight return envelopes while another 271 residents canceled their absentee request and voted early in-person. Norris said she and her husband realized the error in enough time to vote early in-person.
"We were like, ‘well we gotta go now…because if we don’t go now, then we may never get these in time’… because they also have to be postmarked," she said.
While Norris said their votes are secured, she told FOX 5 she’s now worried about the other 500 people Cobb County elections officials are now urging to vote in-person on Election Day or risk their vote not being counted at all.
"I truly believe that every ballot counts, every vote counts, so if you are expecting this to come in, and it doesn’t I hope people understand that they need to go and vote now," she added.
The county's Board of Elections chair said Georgia's 2021 election reforms contributed to issues with fulfilling absentee ballot requests.
"I am very disappointed that we have placed these voters in a position where they may not have an opportunity to cast their ballots in this general election," said Board of Elections Chair Tori Silas. "While human error was clearly a factor, I believe reduced time frames for the receipt of requests for and processing of absentee ballot provided under SB202, as well as the turnover in the Elections office, are also significant factors.
"With only 3 days until election day, we are constrained in what we can do. That being the case, we are taking every possible step, notwithstanding those constraints, to ensure these voters have an opportunity to cast their ballots. Following this election, I will join other members of the board of elections to oversee a review of the absentee ballot process and work with Ms. Eveler and her staff to improve the county’s absentee ballot process to reduce the likelihood of this type of error occurring in the future."