BLACK VOICES

Extremely Long Lines At Georgia Polling Places Lead To Claims Of Voter Suppression

Many voters had to wait hours to cast ballots in the state's primary on Tuesday at polling places where there were also reports of defective machines.

Thousands of voters in Georgia participating in Tuesday’s primary elections have experienced major delays, with reports of long lines and defective voting machines across the state, including in Atlanta, the state’s majority-Black, most populous city.

Georgia is one of five states holding primary elections Tuesday, along with North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina and Nevada. States continue to hold in-person elections amid the coronavirus pandemic, even as voting rights activists and several Democrats in Congress push for more federal investment in mail-in voting.

Georgia, in particular, has been roiled by a fight over access to voting during the pandemic. In April, the state’s Republican House leader, David Ralston, publicly denounced the Republican secretary of state for sending applications for absentee ballots to registered voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary, which was postponed from its original May 19 date due to the pandemic. Ralston claimed mail-in voting is ”devastating to Republicans.”

People wait to vote in Georgia's primary election on June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.
People wait to vote in Georgia's primary election on June 9, 2020, in Atlanta.

On Tuesday, droves of voters still showed up to vote in person. The ensuing chaos had Atlanta Mayor Keshia Lance Bottoms calling out the secretary of state on Twitter and urging voters in line to “not allow your vote to be suppressed.”

In one Twitter video, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Greg Bluestein captured voters who had waited hours to cast their ballots at one polling place in a Georgia suburb. 

Reporter Barmel Lyons also captured video of Atlanta voters angered by the delays.

In addition to Atlanta’s mayor, a number of other past and present state officials sounded the alarm that voter suppression could be the cause of widespread delays and multiple polling places’ severe under-preparedness on Tuesday. 

Congresswoman Lucy McBath called the delays an “unacceptable” form of voter suppression on Twitter.

In another video posted on Twitter, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed documented long, stalled lines at a polling place in Atlanta’s largely Black Fulton County. “They appear to be deliberately slowing down the number of folks who will vote today,” Reed claimed.

Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. 

Georgia’s Republican leadership, now helmed by Gov. Brian Kemp, engaged in numerous measures to suppress the vote even prior to Kemp’s declared gubernatorial victory in 2018. Kemp was Georgia’s secretary of state, or the top elections official, while he ran against former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Kemp and Republicans worked to purge thousands from the voter rolls ahead of that election, and they have purged thousands of additional voters since. 

CORRECTION: The Georgia secretary of state mailed applications for absentee ballots to registered voters, not the ballots themselves as originally stated.

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