Georgia Democrats Turned Out in Record Numbers During 2020 Primary Despite Massive Poll Problems

Georgia Democrats turned out in record-breaking levels for last week's state primary despite the broken machines and long lines that plagued in-person voting.

More than 1 million Democrats cast their ballot on the June 9 election, surpassing the number of Republican voters by tens of thousands.

Stacey Abrams, the founder of the voting rights initiative Fair Fight Action and a former state representative, tweeted Monday morning that "with more votes left to count, more Georgia Dems voted in last week's primary than ever." She announced that 1,074,766 ballots had been counted so far.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the number of votes cast last week surged past the previous high mark of 1,060,851—which was set during the 2008 presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Turnout was also higher on the Democratic side than it was during the state's gubernatorial primary in 2018, when 550,000 ballots were cast. In 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for governor and challenged Republican Brian Kemp. That election, which Abrams lost by less than 2 percentage points, was riddled with accusations of voter suppression.

"Georgia is the premier battleground state," said Seth Bringman, a spokesman for Fair Fight. "Georgia is growing, becoming more diverse, and becoming more Democratic. We have the highest percentage of Black voters and the youngest electorate of any presidential battleground. Georgia Republicans are afraid—and their smoke signals to national funders now becoming loud, desperate cries for help. With the right investment, Democratic victory up and down the ballot in Georgia is within reach."

Voter suppression was also a top issue in last week's election, as voters experienced hours-long lines and broken machines when they tried to cast their vote in-person at polling stations across the state. The problems were particularly prevalent in minority neighborhoods in Fulton County and DeKalb County in Atlanta.

State Representative Jasmine Clark, a Democrat from Lilburn, told Newsweek at the time that many polling stations in her district had no machines ready when they opened that morning and that workers were handing out provisional ballots, which they could not guarantee would be counted by that evening.

"There are a lot of things that need to change, but this just cannot be the way we do elections," Clark said.

Later that day, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office would start an investigation into the voting problems in two of Georgia's largest counties.

"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," he said in a statement.

State leaders had warned ahead of the primary that voters should expect longer wait times because of a new touch screen voting system as well as the increased sanitation measures being taken due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia postponed the election twice and heavily expanded mail-in balloting due to the health crisis. The number of absentee ballots surged to record levels, with nearly 7 million absentee ballots being sent to residents. About 1 million people voted by mail, roughly 30 times the amount of votes cast by mail in the 2016 primary elections.

georgia primary long lines june 2020
People wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election on June 9, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite problems at the polls, Georgia Democrats came out in record numbers during the primary. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty