(CNN) – It was a messy election night in Georgia. By the end of Election Day, Georgia hadn’t declared the winners of its competitive races. Instead, it declared investigations, raising fears of what’s to come when the nation votes in November.
The new, $100 million-plus voting system had not worked well, resulting in long lines that brought fears of what would come in November. County officials blamed state officials, who blamed poll workers, who blamed the machines.
The results left election observers worried about more than who won.
In two of the most populated counties, Fulton and DeKalb, which encompass Atlanta and some of its suburbs, the finger pointing began well before the polls closed.
In the early afternoon, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the situation in those two counties was “unacceptable” and opened an investigation. He said there would “obviously” be a “learning curve” with the new system but that other counties “were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote.”
Michael Thurmond, the CEO of DeKalb county, shot back that Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, should launch a probe into what happened, saying it was Raffensperger’s “responsibility to train, prepare, and equip election staff throughout the state to ensure fair and equal access to the ballot box.”
“The Election Day issues relating to the use of state-purchased voting machines represent an attack on the democratic process,” said Thurmond. “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.”
Ultimately, a dozen hours were not enough for either county and they extended voting at polling places for at least two extra hours. Still, top-tier races in Georgia, including the Democratic primary for Senate, were not called by the time of publication late on Tuesday night. Jon Ossoff was in the lead, though it was unclear as of Tuesday night whether he’d win outright and avoid a runoff.
Ahead of the primary elections, Georgia Secretary of State’s office were touting their response to handling of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Raffensperger said that the office had purchased tens of thousands of masks for election workers, mailed nearly 7 million absentee ballot request forms to active Georgia voters. Fewer than 40,000 people typically vote by absentee ballot in Georgia, but already, the state has received more than 1.2 million absentee ballots, a primary participation record. Of those ballots cast, 951,970 were mail-in ballots, according to numbers provided by his office.
But on Tuesday, voting rights activists lambasted the state’s efforts to fulfill its citizens’ right to vote. “The Georgia elections held today were a massive failure,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Whether it is incompetence or intentional voter suppression — the result is the same — Georgians denied their rights as citizens in this democracy.”
Despite the mess, one thing was clear. “Let’s all work, hope and pray that this not be a preview of November,” tweeted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
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