Georgia Voters Report Machine Problems, Long Lines at Polls During State's Primary Elections

It's finally Election Day in Georgia after the state pushed back its primary elections because of the coronavirus crisis, but many voters are already reporting problems at the polls.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was one of the first to report that there may be a widespread problem. She tweeted Tuesday morning that she was seeing many residents waiting in line to cast their ballot. In several later posts, she reported problems at many polling stations across Atlanta and the rest of the state.

"Voters in line at Ralph Bunche precinct, one of the largest in Atlanta, say NONE of the machines are working. Please address this ASAP," she wrote.

Bottoms encouraged voters to stay in line in order to not have their vote suppressed.

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.

— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) June 9, 2020

Tuesday's elections include primaries for the U.S. Senate and Congress as well as the presidential race. It also includes many contested state legislative seats and hundreds of local races, ranging from mayor to sheriffs and judges. The contests were originally scheduled to take place March 24 but were pushed back twice because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

State Representative Jasmine Clark, a Democrat from Liburn, told Newsweek that several polling stations in her district had no voting machine ready for voters to use when the polls opened at 7 a.m. She said machines were being delivered after 8 a.m. in some areas. Voters were being told they could use a provisional ballot, which is normally used when their eligibility cannot be confirmed at the polls, but poll workers couldn't confirm whether their vote would be counted Tuesday night if they do.

"Voters are either extremely livid or voters are just leaving altogether—or both," Clark said. "It's just been a complete mess."

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

Twitter users also reported problems in other large counties of Georgia, including Dekalb and Fulton. Rebekka Schramm, a reporter at WGCL/CBS46 Atlanta, tweeted a photo of delays at one polling station apparently caused by problems with voting machines. The Georgia News Lab at Georgia State University reported that voting machines were down at a precinct in Dekalb and that poll workers were "using provisional ballots" while the "line is at a standstill."

State leaders warned of longer wait times because of the new touch screen voting system and increased sanitation process. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a Monday press conference that it was "going to be a different Election Day than we've ever seen" and that results would take longer to be announced.

"We are still in the grips, albeit a loosening one, of COVID-19. Fewer people will be able to be in the room voting than we used to see, due to social distancing. The time between the use of machines will be longer because of disinfecting protocols," he said.

Newsweek contacted the secretary of state's office and the Atlanta mayor's office for comment on the voting problems but did not hear back before publication.

On Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Raffensperger announced that his office would be launching an investigation into the voting problems that were reported in two Georgia 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.

"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."

Update 2:02 p.m.: This story has been updated to include the secretary of state's announcement of an investigation into voting problems in Georgia counties.

voter issues georgia primary
Voters leave the polling station at Noonday Baptist Church for the midterm elections on November 6, 2018, in Marietta, Georgia. Georgia voters were experiencing problems at the polls during the state's primary elections on June 9. Jessica McGowan/Getty