Hours-long waits, problems with new voting machines and a lack of available ballots plagued voters in majority minority counties in Georgia on Tuesday — conditions the secretary of state called “unacceptable” and vowed to investigate.
“This seems to be happening throughout Atlanta and perhaps throughout the county. People have been in line since before 7:00 am this morning,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted shortly after polls were supposed to open — and in some cases still hadn’t.
Cody Cutting was on a long line at Lang Carson Community Center in Reynoldstown, Atlanta, where the line snaked around the block and some had been waiting to cast their votes for four and a half hours.
“People are a bit frustrated but spirits are still okay. Neighbors are bringing around food, water, and chairs,” he told NBC News.
Similar issues and lengthy waits were reported in other parts of Fulton County, as well as DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the problems “in certain precincts” in Fulton and DeKalb were “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.
Fulton County Board of Commissioner Chairman Robb Pitts told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “everything that could happen or go wrong has gone wrong so far.”
He pointed to numerous issues, including fewer polling precincts, new voting machines and absentee ballot issues.
Nicholas Roth, 30, said he’d been in line at one Atlanta precinct where the woman ahead of him was told she couldn’t vote because she’d already asked for an absentee ballot.
“She responded, ‘I never got an absentee ballot that’s why I’m here,'” Roth said. The woman was sent to an area with other would-be voters who’d had similar issues.
“The individuals had requested absentee ballots, but they didn’t arrive in time to send in, but when they showed up to try and vote in person, they were blocked because the system had indicated they already had an absentee ballot, which, again, they said they never received,” Roth said.
Adding to the headaches were the new voting machines, which some poll workers and voters struggled with. When voters check in, they’re given a card from a poll worker which they insert into a touch screen machine and to cast their vote. That machine than produces a paper ballot that the voter inserts into a scanner.
The new system was put in place after charges that the previous system was not secure. Local activists filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state three years ago, noting that system did not produce any paper receipts.
Earlier this year, Georgia switched to a new voting system made by Dominion Voting Systems, which the state government said should mitigate most, if not all, of the plaintiffs’ concerns.
Raffensperger blamed the Tuesday’s voting problems on local officials.
“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,” he said.
The state Democratic Party blamed him, saying his office failed to provide “adequate support and training.”
Blayne Alexander and Tatum Rezvani contributed.