Despite a few hiccups, voting in Georgia goes smoothly
By KATE BRUMBACK and SUDHIN THANAWALA Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Despite some technical problems, voting in Georgia went smoothly Tuesday — a marked departure from a June primary that required some voters to wait in line for hours to cast their ballots.
People lined up outside polling places before they opened at 7 a.m. but the average wait time was short throughout the day, the secretary of state’s office said.
“We are having a successful election in Georgia today,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said with roughly five hours of voting still to go.
Raffensperger credited the large numbers of people who voted ahead of Election Day. A record of nearly 2.7 million voters cast their ballots during the state’s three-week early in-person voting period. Another 1.5 million absentee ballots had been received and accepted.
The primary was the first statewide election carried out on the new election system the state bought for more than $100 million last year from Dominion Voting Systems. The system includes touchscreen voting machines that print paper ballots for voters to insert into scanners, which read a barcode to record and tally the votes.
There were some problems. An apparent database error affected all polling sites in Spalding County about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Atlanta, where voters encountered delays after electronic ballots wouldn’t load on touchscreen voting machines. Poll workers switched to a manual process and voting continued. Eight of the 18 locations were operating normally by the afternoon, according to Gabe Sterling with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Four of seven locations that experienced technical problems in Morgan County east of Atlanta also were running normally later Tuesday, as was Morris Brandon Elementary School in Atlanta, where voters initially were forced to cast paper ballots instead of voting on machines.
The problems in Spalding County resulted in voting hours at all polling places there being extended by two hours until 9 p.m. In at least six other counties — Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Houston — voting hours were extended less than an hour at one or two polling places.
A pipe burst early Tuesday morning in a room at State Farm Arena where Fulton County absentee ballots were being counted, registration chief Ralph Jones told the county elections board during a video meeting Tuesday evening. That caused processing to stop for several hours, but no ballots or equipment were damaged, county officials said.
A vast majority of the votes cast in the county — including in-person early ballots, Election Day ballots and about 86,000 absentee ballots — would be tallied and the results released Tuesday, according to a county news release. The county never anticipated having all absentee ballots processed on Election Day, and the rest of them will be processed in the coming days, the release said.
In the early hours of Wednesday, votes still remained to be counted in Fulton and other populous metro Atlanta counties.
Voting in the suburb of Powder Springs northwest of Atlanta, Susan Spence, a supporter for President Donald Trump, said she feels “terrified in a world with Biden, absolutely terrified.”
“I’m here because I believe in Americanism, not socialism,” said Spence, a 69-year-old retired teacher.
But Cynthia McDonald, a 52-year-old consultant in Sandy Springs who voted early for Biden, compared Trump to a catastrophe.
“It’s kind of like a train wreck that you can’t look away from,” she said. “Then you realize you’re not watching the train wreck, you’re on the damn train!”
Kelvin Hardnett stood in line in near-freezing weather for nearly an hour before polls opened at the Cobb County Civic Center outside Atlanta.
“I believe there’s a lot of division and separation,” said Hardnett, 36, who works for a security firm. “And I believe that once we get past the names and the titles and the personal agendas, then you know, we can focus on some real issues.”
A combination of factors contributed to long lines in June, including equipment problems, coronavirus-related poll worker shortages and consolidation of polling places. Voters also queued for hours during early in-person voting last month, with some waiting more than eight hours to cast a ballot.
The coronavirus outbreak complicated training on the new system and many experienced poll workers dropped out ahead of the primary, fearing exposure to the virus. Since then, thousands of new poll workers have been recruited and trained, and election officials organized an army of technicians to be on hand to troubleshoot any equipment problems.
Raffensperger has said his office reviewed wait times and check-in times for precincts across the state after the primary, along with the number of registered voters, turnout and equipment distribution. They then advised counties to add more voting equipment in some places or to split precincts. That has resulted in several hundred new polling places for the general election, he said.
Fulton County alone added 91 polling places, bringing the total from 164 for the primary to 255 for the general election, county elections director Rick Barron said.
“We’ve had minimal lines throughout the county,” Barron told reporters Tuesday morning. “It always helps when you have robust turnout during early voting to alleviate issues that can crop up on election day.”
Associated Press writers Jeff Martin, Ben Nadler, Sophia Tulp and Christina Cassidy contributed reporting.
Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.