This morning, the City of Atlanta awakened with expected issues stemming from long lines, voting machines not working, and voters unable to vote because they discovered they were in the wrong polling location.
Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted, “voters in line at Ralph Bunche precinct, one of the largest in Atlanta, say NONE of the machines are working.” While pleading with skeptical voters to stay in line, it was a harbinger for things to come.
Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, told the New York Times, she received 84 text messages reporting an assortment of voting issues within ten minutes of the polls opening.
Georgia’s new voting system requires voters to check-in, receive a programmed card from a poll worker, then insert the card into a touch screen machine to cast a ballot. The system then produces a paper ballot with a QR code that the voter feeds into an optical scanner.
DeKalb County was not spared from the chaos. Dawn Montgomery voted at the St. Paul AME Church on Stone Mountain-Lithonia Road and she said their four voting machines were not working.
“I couldn’t early vote if I wanted to,” Montgomery explains. “They directed me to go to the website, and it showed me my polling locations, relative to the coronavirus. I went to five different locations on five different days and I ended up at Berean church and I couldn’t stay there because the lines were all the way around the building. So, I had to take a chance to vote on Election Day. And because my polling location was at a church, I could sit down and wait. If I had early voted, I would still be sick by now.”
DeKalb and Fulton counties are the two counties most observers expected to be free from issues due to the intense media scrutiny stemming from the 2018 general election. Based on social media posts, the majority of issues this morning have come from predominantly African-American precincts. Many concerned voters believed the new machines could be a new mode of suppressing the vote. The machines were down within the first two hours after the polls.
However, the Secretary of State’s office shifted blame to local officials.
“There is nothing the secretary of state could have done to prevent this,” said Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs. “This is the singular failure of poor planning at the local level.” Fuchs accused Fulton County waited too long to mail ballots to people that requested them via email.
However, Seth Bringman, spokesperson with Fair Fight Action, pointed out the state picks the vendor that sends the ballots.
“He had primary responsibility to make sure today’s elections went well, and he failed,” said Bringman.
So I’m at my polling place because for #earlyvoting folks kept sending me all around DeKalb to 5 different places to vote. Been here at my designated polling place since 7am…. there are only 4 machines… NONE OF THEM ARE WORKING #gapol #vote @theatlantavoice @ajc— Dawn (@_dawnmontgomery) June 9, 2020
According to GeorgiaVotes.com, 1,875,760 people have applied to vote in today’s Primary Election. At this point in the 2016 primary, that number was 351,420. The total turnout for the 2020 combined primary is 434% higher compared to 2016.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says absentee ballot applications were sent to all eligible voters. Each county has dropoff points for absentee ballots.
“We were able to stand up a very robust absentee ballot program,” Raffensperger said in an interview with Score. “Typically, 7 percent of all Georgians vote absentee. This year it’ll probably be well north of 75 percent.”
Here trying to vote in Central Park in Atlanta. They said all machines are broken and not working and that they reported it before today but no one responded. Hundreds in this line and in 50 minutes only 4 people have voted. They are doing by hand. @staceyabrams— Ron Clark (@mrronclark_) June 9, 2020
Raffensperger has projected that 250,000-400,000 people will vote in-person today. He also said his office will not start releasing results until “each and every precinct has closed, and every voter has voted,” urging patience from voters. Plus, he hasn’t made up his mind on if his office will also mail request forms for either the runoff or November election.
“It’s one election at a time,” he said. “We are still in the grips, albeit a loosening one, of COVID-19. Fewer people will be able to be in the room than we have seen, due to social distancing. Time for using each machine will be longer because of the disinfecting protocol. The lines will be longer because we will be standing six feet apart.”
The polls will close at 7:00 P.M., and individuals who are in line by that time will have the right to cast their ballot.