Fulton County Automates with Ballot Opening and Extracting to Deliver Returns on Time

“The OPEX® ballot extraction equipment allowed us to cut down our manual work force drastically as well as open ballots quickly and error free. OPEX’s customer service was second to none.”

Rick Barron, Director of Elections, Fulton County

The Background

In previous General Elections, Fulton County employed 150 people to open approximately 35K ballots, which were required to be opened in just one day. In 2020, Georgia’s Secretary of State sent out absentee applications to all registered voters and extended the time to open ballots to one week prior to the General Election. After seeing the strong demand for mailed-in ballots, Fulton County knew they would not be able to manually open all of these envelopes on time, so they turned to automation.

The Challenge

Even with an additional six days, Fulton County knew they needed to rethink their process. Based on application requests, they were expecting mailed in ballots to increase six-fold, and they were correct. Fulton County received 200K mail-in ballots in the November General Election. In the January 2021 Run-Off Election, they received over 170K ballots. In each case there are two envelopes per ballot (secrecy and affidavit) to be opened. In essence, Fulton County needed to open 400K and 340K envelopes, respectively.

Key Challenges

Nearly 6x increase in mail-in ballots

Absentee ballots were sent to everyone

Pipes burst at State Farm Arena creating challenges

The Solution

Fulton County purchased five OPEX Model 72 Ballot Opener and Extractors for the General Election. They were so impressed with the performance that they bought an additional four machines to ensure they had the horsepower needed for future elections. The 150 employees previously required to open 35K ballots was slashed to only seven to open a total of 740K for both elections. The support from the OPEX team and the ease of operation made the transition significantly easier.

Key Results


Number of staff needed to open and extract all mail-in ballots


number of mail-in ballot envelopes open and extracted during 2020 general election


Grant money covered the full cost of the solution

The Future

Fulton County will be condensing the number of locations they need to process ballots. They will also use the OPEX Model 72 to assist them in opening applications for mailed-in ballots. Unexpected events happen, and Fulton County wants voters to have trust their ballots were received, processed, and counted properly. They have since purchased four additional units in preparation for the continued growth of mailed-in ballots.

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Download the Fulton County Case Study PDF