After being delayed for nearly three months due to COVID-19, Georgia’s June 9 primary and general election has turned into chaos at many precincts in metro Atlanta.
Due to the election day meltdown, Fulton County has announced polls will remain open until 9 p.m.
The county elections office said in a statement: “Beginning at 7 p.m., ballots will no longer be scanned but will be placed in provisional ballot envelopes, per O.C.G.A. 21-4-418(d). 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. The extended hours will provide more time for any voters affected by these issues to cast their ballots tonight.”
DeKalb County announced just before 7 p.m. that it was extending voting time at seven precincts:
There have been reports all day of long lines, malfunctioning voting machines, confused poll workers, not enough absentee ballots, and passing the buck on whose fault it was between state and local officials. Gov. Brian Kemp was trending on Twitter for a time in the afternoon as users accused him of suppressing the vote.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office would investigate voting issues in both Fulton and DeKalb Counties to root out problems before the November general election. In a statement, Raffensperger called the voting situation in both counties “unacceptable.”
“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,” Raffensperger said in reference to Fulton and DeKalb.
Local leaders pushed back on the secretary of state’s comments, including DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond. “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,” Thurmond said in a statement.
The Georgia Democratic Party also had words for Raffensperger: “The Secretary of State’s job is to provide adequate support and training for counties as he implemented Georgia’s new voting system, and he has failed. Across the state, Georgia voters are waiting for hours to cast their ballots because Georgia’s system is failing them. We demand statewide action by the Secretary of State — the chief elections official in Georgia— to fix this problem immediately before we see these issues for every election this cycle.”
The City of Atlanta and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms both used social media to encourage frustrated voters to stick out the long lines and confusion.
The City of Atlanta tweeted: “If you encounter long lines or delays because of voting machine malfunctions, please report the delay to poll officials and request an emergency paper provisional ballot. Call the Election Protection Hotline at (866) 687-8683.”
Bottoms tweeted: “If you are in line, PLEASE do not allow your vote to be suppressed. PLEASE stay in line. They should offer you a provisional ballot if the machines are not working.”
Ron Clark, founder of the Ron Clark Academy, tweeted: “Machines not working at the Central Park voting precinct. Been here since 6:15 AM and so far 5 people have voted. They are doing by hand. Hundreds in line and many have left. Democracy walking away.”