Controversy allegedly erupted as the chance to cast ballots on Georgia’s first day of in-person early voting Monday when thousands of people waited for hours to make their voices heard.
Liberal activist Shaun King tweeted an image of the scene: “It’s OUTRAGEOUS. People are passing out. The ambulance just came. People are hungry and thirsty. People are leaving for work. This is voter suppression.”
Cobb County Elections and Registration Director Janine Eveler told Fox News that voters should check wait times.
“Notice that other locations have much shorter lines and voters can vote at any location. We will be open at nine locations for three weeks, adding two more starting next Monday. This is not the only day to vote early. Voters can still apply for an absentee ballot by mail as well, if they do not want to wait to vote in-person. We had one voter who had a back issue and was feeling bad, so medical services were called.”
Eager voters endured waits of six hours or more in Cobb County, which was once solidly Republican but has voted for Democrats in recent elections, and joined lines that wrapped around polling places in solidly Democratic DeKalb County. They also turned out in big numbers in north Georgia’s Floyd County, where support for President Trump is strong.
With record turnout expected for this year’s presidential election and fears about exposure to the coronavirus, election officials and advocacy groups have been encouraging people to vote early, either in person or by absentee ballot.
Many answered the call on Monday, showing up in numbers that overwhelmed some locations.
Hundreds of people slowly moved along a line that snaked back and forth outside Cobb’s main elections office in a suburban area northwest of Atlanta. Good moods seemed to prevail, even though some people said at 1 p.m. that they’d been waiting for six hours. A brief cheer went up when a pizza deliverer handed a pie to someone in line.
At least two counties briefly had problems with the electronic poll books used to check in voters. The issue ground voting to a halt for a while at State Farm Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks NBA team plays. On-site technicians resolved the problem and the lines soon cleared at the arena, which is Georgia’s largest early voting site, with 300 voting machines.
Problems with the electronic poll books, high turnout, the consolidation of polling places and shortages of pollworkers, bedeviled Georgia’s primary in June. The dysfunction renewed questions about Georgia’s ability to conduct fair elections, two years after the state drew heavy scrutiny during a closely watched gubernatorial election in which there were long waits and other problems.
While voters must vote at their assigned polling place on Election Day, they can vote at any voting site in their county during early voting. Some people lined up before dawn Monday to be among the first to vote. Turnout also may have also been boosted because Monday is a federal holiday, so more people are off work.
Eveler told The Associated Press the county had prepared as much as much as it could, “but there’s only so much space in the rooms and parking in the parking lot.”
“We’re maxing out both of those,” she said. “People are double parking, we have gridlock pretty much in our parking lot,” she added.