Massive voting delays and machine failures have been reported throughout metro Atlanta according to social media users tracking the resulting frustration and outrage in the state. Still, the looping lines and bustling crowds reported at various precincts haven’t inspired the state’s Republican leadership to fess up to the obvious: Maybe rolling out new equipment the same year that the state faced the deadly coronavirus pandemic wasn’t the best idea.
As many as 25 precincts in the state's Gwinnett County, which is northeast of Atlanta, “didn’t have machines or other equipment up and ready to go” at 7 AM, Channel 2 Action News reporter Tony Thomas tweeted. “In some cases no scanners, or printers, or paper. That’s about 20% of precincts in (the) county [156 in total],” he said.
A voter at the Metropolitan Library, which is about three miles south of downtown Atlanta, told CBS 46 he had been standing in line since 7 AM and the line wasn’t moving. All machines were reported down at the location, reporter Melissa Stern tweeted.
A voter in DeKalb County, which spans parts of east Atlanta and the neighboring cities, experienced similar technical issues when voters were told polling machines were down due to a power outage. Few lingered behind at Cross Keys High School before 10 AM, CBS 46 tweeted.
Another CBS 46 video showed "outraged" voters who learned they couldn't vote not only in Gwinnett County but throughout other areas of metro Atlanta. “I ran for office. I worked for President (Barack) Obama in the White House. This is wrong," one woman yelled. "This is America. Please God help us. I mean it. This is a crisis in our world to make us not exercise our right to vote.”
Proving himself to be exactly the kind of leader many Democrats anticipated, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger attempted to blame counties for the widespread voting issues. He told Channel 2 that “Gwinnett only discovered yesterday that the new voting machines don’t fit on trucks” like the old ones did and he is questioning the county on why it waited until the last minute to move the machines.
"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," Raffensperger said in a media statement. "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."
Gabriel Sterling, implementation manager for Georgia’s voting system, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “So far we have no reports of any actual equipment issues. […] We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment,” Sterling said. “While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training and failures of leadership.”
Several Georgia residents, from social media users to the presiding officer of the DeKalb County Commission Steve Bradshaw, have called state officials out for prioritizing the blame game at this point. “It's astounding to me what an abdication of leadership that is, to push the ownership down to the counties,” Bradshaw, a Democrat, told the AJC. “I was raised that if you mess up, fess up."
The state’s leadership apparently doesn’t adhere to that principle. In addition to their moral ineptitude, there’s been little acknowledgment that maybe the same racial and economic disparities observed nationwide in education, incarceration, and health systems impact voting and elections too.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Raisa Habersham tweeted that although she's seen several reports of voting issues at precincts in downtown Atlanta and South Atlanta, “I want to point out that I haven’t seen or have been told of any voting issues at the precincts I’ve been to in Buckhead.” The neighborhood is one of Atlanta’s wealthiest communities.
Other social media accounts seemed to support Habersham’s observation.
Still, Democratic leaders are urging Georgia voters not to give up. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms begged voters not to allow their votes to be suppressed in a tweet Tuesday morning: "PLEASE stay in line. They should offer you a provisional ballot if the machines are not working."
Sen. Nikema Williams, who is chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, tweeted: "Georgia voters, the only way we change this system is by showing up to vote and electing leaders who will fight back like @LilJon did today!”
Voters have been asked to call a voter protection hotline at 1-888-730-5816 to report any voting issues. Those who received absentee ballots but haven’t mailed them can drop off the ballots at drop boxes across the city anytime before 7 PM, according to the AJC.