Rob Pitts Challenges the Results of the Fulton County Chair Election

But does his argument have any merit?

The Political Insider carried news of Rob Pitts’s challenge to the election results in the Fulton County Chairperson’s race, including his complaint. Pitts is a sitting County Commissioner, but decided to challenge John Eaves, the current County Commission Chair, in the Democratic Primary. He narrowly lost. 45,240 votes were cast, and the difference was a shade over 500.

The complaint (linked above) essentially argues this:

1) The Legislature changed the name of the seat to “County Commission At-Large District 7”, which did not inform voters that they were voting for the Chair of the Commission. Further, the election board had some duty to correct some duty to correct the alleged misapprehension, which they failed to do. The change and the failure to educate caused many voters (or at least enough to bridge the small gap between Pitts and Eaves) to incorrectly identify the race and thus skip it.

2) The proof that #1 occurred is that the Residual Vote Totals, that is the dropoff from the total number of ballots cast in the Democratic primary versus the number of votes in this race was an “alarming” 8.3%.

Let’s address these contentions in order. First, the name of the race probably should be “Fulton County Chair” but the legislature’s change didn’t change it from that name. The last time this race was run (2010) the name was “County Commissioner At-Large District 1”. It seems unlikely at best that such a change would cause mass confusion. It is likely that everyone who was confused this time was confused last time and back into time immemorial.

Whether or not the election board has a real duty to do voter education such that that a violation of that duty could give rise to an invalidation of the election is questionable. There’s nothing cited as support for the supposition in the complaint.

And then there’s the “proof”. Residual Vote Totals that are large can be indicative of a problem with the ballot. The butterfly ballots which were the subject of litigation in the Bush-Gore case were around 6%. However, this isn’t a voting problem caused by confusion, it is caused by down ballot apathy. As voters go from the top of the ballot (Senator, Governor) through the State Senate and State Representative and finally get down to the judges and the commissioners, they tend to stop voting. That’s called undervoting and it is what’s going on here.

And all of that is ignoring the plainly ludicrous idea that some people wanted to vote for Pitts but didn’t because of the 7 in the office title.