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Long Lines, Voting Machine Issues Plague Georgia Primary

54 minutes ago

Voters across Georgia are experiencing long lines at the polls and widespread issues with a new $104 million voting system in the state's Tuesday primary.

In the city of Atlanta, voters waited upwards of three hours at some polling places as social distancing measures decreased the number of voting machines and people inside a polling place at one time.

At Park Tavern, a restaurant and event space where more than 16,000 Atlantans were assigned to vote after two polling places backed out, more than 350 people were lined up before polls opened at 7 a.m.

Elsewhere, precincts were delayed in opening after poll managers were not given correct access codes to set up the touchscreen ballot-marking devices that print out a paper ballot with a voter's choices.

In DeKalb County just east of Atlanta, problems with voting machines in one precinct led officials to use backup paper provisional ballots - until those quickly ran out.

Poll manager Jonathan Bames, who waited nearly four hours until the county's technical support got the voting machines online at Cross Keys High School, told Georgia Public Broadcasting that the location was equipped with only 20 provisional ballots.

"I have put in several voice messages detailing what we need and what assistance [we need]," Bames said. "No response."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted her concerns Tuesday morning after reports that several majority-black polling places had no working machines.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office said mid-morning there were no reports of actual equipment issues and blamed counties for any problems at the polls.

"We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late, we have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment," a spokeswoman said. "While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and failures of leadership. Well over 2,000 precincts are functioning normally throughout the state of Georgia."

Georgia's primary has already seen record-setting turnout for a contest that features a competitive Democratic U.S. Senate primary, several competitive U.S. House races and every state lawmaker on the ballot. More than 1.3 million voters cast their ballots ahead of Election Day – one million of those by mail.

In the weeks leading up to the election, more than 10% of Georgia's polling places have relocated because of COVID-19 concerns. In metro Atlanta there are more than 80 polling places were closed and consolidated ahead of Election Day.

This isn't the only pandemic-related disruption to voting in the state. Georgia twice postponed its primary this spring as the coronavirus began spreading.

Ada Wood and Nicole Sadek of the Georgia News Lab contributed reporting.

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