ATLANTA (AP) – On the occasion of the first day of personal pre-voting in Georgia on Monday, thousands of people waited hours to raise their votes.
Avid voters waited six hours or more in Cobb County, which was once firmly Republican but voted Democratic in the recent election, to join lines revolving around polling stations in firmly Democratic DeKalb County. They were also found in large numbers in Northern Georgia’s Floyd County, a redoubt by supporters of President Donald Trump.
Given the record turnout expected for this year̵
Many answered the call on Monday and came up in numbers that overwhelmed some locations.
“We had prepared as much as we could, but there is only so much room in the rooms and parking in the parking lot. We’re both exhausting, ”said Janine Eveler, Cobb County’s election and registration director. “People double-park, we pretty much have a standstill in our parking lot,” she added.
Hundreds of people slowly moved along a line that snaked back and forth in front of Cobb’s main election office in the suburbs northwest of Atlanta. Good humor seemed to take hold, although at 1pm some people said they had waited six hours. There was a brief cheer when a pizza delivery man handed someone a cake in line.
At least two counties had temporary problems with the electronic ballot books used to check in voters. At the State Farm Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks NBA team plays, voting was suspended for a while. Technicians on site solved the problem and the lines were soon cleared in the arena, which with 300 voting machines is Georgia’s largest location for early voting.
“We’re disappointed it happened,” Hawks CEO Steve Koonin told reporters, but noted that there are many days left. The early face-to-face vote runs through October 30 in Georgia.
Problems with the electronic ballot books – together with the high turnout, consolidation of polling stations and the lack of poll workers – weighed on Georgia’s primary election in June. The dysfunction renewed the question of Georgia’s ability to hold fair elections two years after the state conducted an in-depth review during a closely watched gubernatorial election, which also included long waits and other problems.
While voters have to vote at their assigned polling station on election day, they can vote at any polling location in their district during the early voting. Some people lined up before Monday morning to be among the first to vote. Voter turnout may have also increased as Monday is a federal holiday and more people are unemployed.
Natalie Rawlings, 49, had prepared to vote absent but did not trust the postal service. So she submitted the blank postal ballot to interview workers before voting in person on Monday.
She went to a library in Atlanta first, but there was no parking lot and there was a long line, so she went to the State Farm Arena, where the line did not move for 45 minutes. A handful of people left after someone announced that there was a “known software problem” that they wanted to solve. But most of them stayed. In the end, it took her about an hour and a half to vote.
“I’m outside. It’s a beautiful day. They’re giving away water. There are worse things. And everyone is appropriately socially distant,” Rawlings said.
Democrat Rawlings said she was motivated by the “rudeness” of President Donald Trump’s language and his apparent lack of respect for other branches of government and world leaders: “It has to end.”
Election officials also reported long lines in Floyd County who also had a problem with the electronic ballot books. That initially slowed things down at the county’s two open polling stations, but it was resolved in about an hour, said Robert Brady, the county’s chief polling officer.
“Typically in Floyd County you have a line that lasts five minutes. Today it takes up to 30 minutes, ”said Brady. “It’s because of the large – and I’m talking large – turnout.”
In Macon, Seth Clark arrived at the main election office around 9:30 a.m. on Monday and found a U-shaped line around the parking lot. The vote lasted three hours.
“I’ve never seen so many people on the first day of the early voting,” said Clark, who won the election for an impartial seat on the Macon-Bibb County Commission that summer.
The long line was caused in part by coronavirus precautions. People stood six feet apart and wore masks, Clark said. Some brought folding chairs and books.
“It seems to be going smoothly,” said Clark. “It’s just a lot.”
With Georgia as a potential battlefield, both the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns sent substitutes to the state on Monday.
Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, planned to perform with prominent State Democrats in DeKalb County before traveling to Columbus to meet with military and veteran families.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr. became a gathering of Republican voters in Savannah, off the coast, and in Kennesaw, just outside of Atlanta.
Associated press representatives include Brynn Anderson and Ben Nadler in Atlanta, Ron Harris in Marietta and Russ Bynum in Savannah.