Georgia voters wait long into the night to cast ballots in state’s primary

Georgia voters wait into the night to cast ballots in state’s primary

Voters ran into issues with extremely long lines at several voting locations across Georgia during the state’s primary forcing many sites to stay open hours after the traditional 7 p.m. close.

State election, county and other officials blamed each other for the chaos.

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County officials said, “Today is the first election in most poll workers in Fulton County and across Georgia operated the new election equipment introduced this year. While the majority of polling places operated smoothly, a number of sites experienced challenges with equipment throughout the day.”

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond just issued this statement about today’s elections, blaming the failure of leadership starting with the Secretary of State’s office.

“The Election Day issues relating to the use of state-purchased voting machines represent an attack on the democratic process. The Secretary of State’s office has alleged these issues resulted from a failure of county leadership. If there was a failure of leadership, it starts where the buck should stop, at the top. The eradication of any ‘learning curve’ rests squarely at the feet of the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his office.

“Therefore, I am calling on Governor Brian Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, and Speaker David Ralston to immediately launch a comprehensive, top-to-bottom investigation into voting issues, including the Secretary of State’s preparation for and administration of this election. It is the Secretary of State’s responsibility to train, prepare, and equip election staff throughout the state to ensure fair and equal access to the ballot box. Those Georgians who have been disenfranchised by the statewide chaos that has effected the voting system today in numerous DeKalb precincts and throughout the state of Georgia deserve answers.”

Statewide Voting Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling fired back at the DeKalb CEO, who placed the blame of voting issues starting with the Secretary of State’s office.

“That the Dekalb County CEO doesn’t seem to know that training poll workers and equipping polling places is a responsibility that Georgia law places squarely on the county goes a long way to explain the issues that we saw today in Dekalb. See OCGA 21-2-70 (Each superintendent within his or her county shall:… (4) selection and equip polling places…, (8) instruct poll officers and others in their duties, and to inspect systematically and thoroughly the conduct of primaries and elections in the several precincts of his or her county to the end that primaries and elections may be honestly, efficiently, and uniformly conducted). The Secretary of State’s office is tasked with providing training to the superintendents, who then train their poll workers and county election officials. The fact that the egregious issues we are seeing today seem to be limited to a few precincts in a couple counties suggests that the breakdown occurred at the county level. The other 157 counties faced the same difficulties of using a new system and voting during a pandemic, but they seem to have handled the issues that arose diligently and efficiently."

The last person voted at midnight after standing in line for more than 5 hours at a Union City church.

“We knew this election was coming, the election was delayed multiple times and we had ample opportunity to get this right,” said Democratic State Rep. Nikema Williams.

The problem at the South Fulton County polling station was 5 of the 10 voting machines were down.

“I think it’s a little voter suppression. It is what it is,” said voter Demarcus Taylor.

Another thing that slowed down the process was social distancing. Voters hung in there up until midnight to cast their ballots.

“It’s worth it and it will pay dividends and we’ll be back in November,” Taylor said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office has opened an investigation into Fulton and DeKalb counties over voting issues.

“The voting situation today in certain precincts in Fulton and DeKalb counties is unacceptable. My office has opened an investigation to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election. Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties. But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote.”

The Georgia ACLU released the following statement about the voting issues across metro Atlanta Tuesday night:

“The Georgia elections held today were a massive failure. Countless Georgians were deprived of their sacred right to vote. Whether it is incompetence or intentional voter suppression- the result is the same-- Georgians denied their rights as citizens in this democracy,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia.

“In March 2019, the ACLU of Georgia warned Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett – the state’s most populous counties – that they were not ready for elections in 2020. These counties have over two million of the state’s nearly seven million registered voters,” Young continued. “Based on their performance in the 2018 election — the ACLU warned that insufficient resources were allocated for polling places, machines, in-person election staff, and staff to process absentee ballots and that this would result in the disenfranchisement of voters in 2020. It gives us no pleasure to be proven right.”