Georgia Primary a ‘Catastrophe,’ Voting Rights Advocates Say

By: - June 10, 2020 12:00 am

Voters in Atlanta wait in line in Georgia’s primary election yesterday. Thousands of voters reported long lines and equipment malfunctions. Brynn Anderson/The Associated Press

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Yesterday’s primary election in Georgia did not go smoothly. Voters reported a litany of issues: Many polling locations did not open on time, some of the newly purchased equipment malfunctioned, many poll workers did not understand how to turn on or operate the machines, polling locations lacked backup paper ballots, and voters reported four-hour lines.

“The election has been a catastrophe,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Democratic Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at one point pleaded with voters to stay in line while officials attempted to fix malfunctioning machines. But many voters walked away from the polls, opting not to cast a ballot amid these barriers.

The problems weren’t just at the voting locations. While the state mailed absentee ballot applications to all 6.9 million voters, many never received ballots they requested, some received the wrong mail-in ballots and others failed to receive legally required secrecy inner envelopes for their mail-in ballots. A record 1.5 million people asked for absentee ballots to avoid voting in person in the midst of a pandemic.

Clarke, whose group helped run a hotline to report these issues, gave the state an F for its handling of the election. Three-quarters of the complaints came from black voters, she said.

“Georgia is a repeat offender to voter suppression efforts and actions that undermine voting rights,” she said. “With political will, they can get this right.

“We’ll keep pushing and fighting because voters in Georgia deserve better.”

Many of the problems occurred in four Atlanta-area counties: Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett, all of which have significant black populations.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.