ATLANTA, Ga, (CW69 News at 10) — (UPDATED) — Just as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger warned in yesterday’s press conference, and long before then, lines are still building and frustrations are mounting today, as people arrive at the precincts to cast their votes.
Numerous social media posts have captured polls opening late and broken machines, all while voters navigate through social distancing guidelines that require standing six feet apart and wearing masks.
By the afternoon, Raffensperger announced he had launched an investigation into the Fulton and DeKalb County elections processes, releasing the following statement:
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. 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.
Statewide Voting Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling issued this statement on voting and elections in Georgia:
So far we have no reports of any actual equipment issues. We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late. We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment. While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and falures of leadership. Well over 2,000 precincts are functioning normally throughout the state of Georgia.
Starling later issued this statement in reference to DeKalb County:
That the Dekalb County CEO doesn’t seem to know that training poll workers and equipping polling places is a responsibility that Georgia law places squarely on the county goes a long way to explain the issues that we saw today in Dekalb. See OCGA 21-2-70 (Each superintendent within his or her county shall:… (4) selection and equip polling places…, (8) instruct poll officers and others in their duties, and to inspect systematically and thoroughly the conduct of primaries and elections in the several precincts of his or her county to the end that primaries and elections may be honestly, efficiently, and uniformly conducted). The Secretary of State’s office is tasked with providing training to the superintendents, who then train their poll workers and county election officials. The fact that the egregious issues we are seeing today seem to be limited to a few precincts in a couple counties suggests that the breakdown occurred at the county level. The other 157 counties faced the same difficulties of using a new system and voting during a pandemic, but they seem to have handled the issues that arose diligently and efficiently.
Prior to those statements, DeKalb County Board of Elections Chair Samuel Tillman issued this release in response to the issues:
DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Office is experiencing technical issues with the new state-issued voting machines. These issues are being seen statewide and are not isolated to DeKalb County.
Any voter who has been turned away without casting a ballot should go to any precinct in DeKalb County and ask for a provisional paper ballot.
Voters experiencing issues should call the DeKalb County Board of Voter Registration and Elections at 404-298-4020.
In a Twitter post this morning, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged voters to endure any problems to make sure their votes are counted.
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. https://t.co/1lVu3rEsCg
— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) June 9, 2020
In response to the mayor’s tweet, a voter said she arrived at her polling location at 6:45 a.m., before the polls were opened, and was still waiting in line more than two hours later.
Been here since 6:45. Line wraps around front & side of school. Still waiting on my absentee ballot… pic.twitter.com/sQhfB4xvd5
— Katherine McClure (@KMcClureArtist) June 9, 2020
As of the afternoon, the extent to which the issues had impacted the right for some people to vote in the Georgia primary was uncertain.
Dekalb County later extended voting hours to 9:30 p.m. for all of its polling locations. Officials had previously submitted a petition to the DeKalb Superior Court to extend the hours for certain locations, providing this explanation in a press release:
The petition to extend the hours was made as the result of a delay in voting due to technical and logistical issues. Although voters were offered provisional ballots, this extension was requested, in an abundance of caution, to ensure that all electors at the locations have the required full 12 hours of voting.
Questions on this matter should be referred to the Registration and Elections office at 404-298-4020.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.