Georgia elections are (almost) back to normal, officials say After a tumultuous two years in the spotlight, Georgia elections officials say a smooth 2022 has them hopeful for more "boring" elections.

Georgia election officials breathe a sigh of relief after uneventful voting

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JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Over the last few years, Georgia has been on the frontlines of election conspiracies and sweeping voting rule changes. The state is once again a national political battleground with outsized attention. Even though this month's elections are being audited as next month's Senate runoff approaches, election officials are feeling optimistic about the future. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler reports.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: It's the voting equivalent of watching paint dry, but a risk-limiting audit last week is exactly the type of calm and uneventful process that Georgia elections used to be known for.

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GABRIEL STERLING: My name is Gabriel Sterling. I am the chief operating officer for Secretary Raffensperger and the secretary of state's office. And as part of his continuing process to make elections boring again, we are here today to kick off our audit.

FOWLER: The most exciting part - when people rolled 10-sided Dungeons & Dragons dice to seed an algorithm.

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STERLING: No whammies, no whammies. One - the number is one.

FOWLER: That algorithm then told counties what random batches of ballots to count. Then teams of two got to work tallying those ballots to ensure electronic counters properly work in the midterms. For the first time in a while, Georgia has seen an election that lived up to the boring anti hype. No candidate cried fraud. Early voting records were shattered with few reported issues, and elections officials were able to do their jobs without threats, harassment or concerns about safety.

NADINE WILLIAMS: We're getting close to the light at the end of the tunnel. I still told staff, you know, we have a very strong staff. I'm very proud of our department. We did a awesome job. But we still know that the runoff is right upon us.

FOWLER: That's Nadine Williams, the interim elections director of Fulton County, Georgia's most populous and most scrutinized county.

WILLIAMS: But we're going to be able to go ahead and make sure everything is efficient, everything is functioning. And we're very confident that we'll have a very successful runoff and be able to finally take a breather at the end of this year.

FOWLER: The last two years have been difficult in Georgia. The state implemented the largest ever rollout of a new voting system. The coronavirus pandemic saw fewer polling places and people to work them, while election offices were overwhelmed with mail-in ballots. 2020's presidential race was counted three separate times in as many weeks, and lies about the outcome and voting process led to threats, harassment and a sweeping election law change. But this election saw none of that, much to local elections' officials relief.

AMEIKA PITTS: I can say it is like a exhale, an exhale moment where you're like, OK.

FOWLER: Ameika Pitts is the Henry County elections director, And I caught her in a brief moment of downtime after finishing her audit and before runoff preparation becomes all-consuming.

PITTS: Me being in elections as long as I have, the last two years did feel kind of uncomfortable. And now it's kind of feeling like how it used to with coming from the general going into the runoff.

FOWLER: In other words, pretty uneventful, like dealing with questions about registration issues and candidates instead of mistrust and accusations of fraud.

PITTS: And not always feel like you're watching your back or having to always be, like, on the defense when you know what you know. You're the expertise in it and have so many people to challenge you that you're not.

FOWLER: So election workers in Georgia are feeling good for now about how things are going. But once the final votes have been counted in the December 6 runoff, there's always more work to do and the next election to prepare for. For NPR News, I'm Stephen Fowler in McDonough, Ga.

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