Long Lines, Computer Glitches Greet Many Early Voters in Georgia
A record 128,590 voters cast ballots on the first day of early voting in Georgia Monday, but for many of them it was a day of long waits, sometimes for hours and frustration as computer woes repeatedly took down polling places, including inside the State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta.
Monday was the start of three weeks of early voting in the Peach State and elections officials believe that more than 5 million Georgians will cast ballots in this year’s general election.
Problems at the polling places began early and only mounted during the day. Among the first to be reported were glitches with the voter check-in computers in several locations across metro Atlanta, and those problems cascaded into others.
At State Farm Arena, lines stopped when voters received an “invalid card” error when inserting green voter access cards into touchscreens.
At other locations, poll workers and tech personnel reportedly became so engrossed with trying to fix check-in tablets that they neglected to begin handing out emergency paper ballots.
For much of the day, voters gathered in parking lots and lined sidewalks. Several voters reported having to wait for as long eight hours before they could cast their ballots.
For all that, the Georgia Secretary of State’s office hailed the start of early voting as an unmitigated success.
In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, the office noted that in-person turnout Monday “surged” more than 42% above the previous record of 90,688 voters set on the first day of in-person voting ahead of the 2016 elections.
“Record early, in-person voting capped off an already unprecedented election cycle,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a statement.
“On our successful first day of early in person voting, we saw almost 130,000 people cast their ballots, mirroring the enthusiasm surges we saw in almost every other state that has started early voting for November.”
The release stated that Georgia “is recognized as a national leader in elections.”
“It was the first state in the country to implement the trifecta of automatic voter registration, at least 16 days of early voting (which has been called the “gold standard”), and no excuse absentee voting,” the statement said.
To date, county elections officials across the state have accepted 1,581,365 absentee ballot requests from Georgia voters, and 473,812 of those absentee ballots by mail have already been returned and accepted by county elections officials.
Only 90 absentee ballots by mail have been rejected for an unprecedented 0.019% absentee ballot rejection rate, the secretary of state’s office said.
A staff member with the secretary’s office, who was not authorized to speak on the record, acknowledged the long delays in a conversation with The Well News, but insisted that many polling places experienced no problems at all.
The staffer also wondered why voters didn’t simply come back another day after encountering what they knew would be exceedingly long waits.
One unanswered question is whether voters who wait all day on line will be allowed to vote even if their wait extends beyond the scheduled closing time for their polling place.
The answer appeared to be, “it depends on the local county official.” Across Georgia early voting hours apparently vary considerably. Some counties keep the polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., just like on Election Day. Others are reportedly confining early voting to “business hours.”
A representative of the secretary of state’s office promised to get The Well News a clarification of the early voting rules.
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