ATLANTA (AP) – The opportunity to vote on the first day of personal early voting in Georgia on Monday made thousands of people wait for hours to hear their voices.
Impatient voters withstood the wait of six hours or more in Cobb County, which was once a solid Republican but voted for Democrats in the last election and joined the ranks that wrapped around polling stations in the solidly democratic DeCalb County. They also found themselves in large numbers in Floyd County, North Georgia, a redoubt of supporters of President Donald Trump.
With the record turnout expected for this year̵
Many answered Monday’s call, appearing in numbers that cluttered some seats.
“We prepared as much as we could, but there is so much space in the rooms and the parking lot. We’re running out of both, “said Coban County Election and Registration Director Janine Eweler. “People are double parking lots, we have difficulties almost in our parking lot,” she added.
Hundreds of people moved slowly along a line that wound back and forth in front of Cobb’s main election office in a suburban area northwest of Atlanta. Good mood seemed to prevail, although some people at 1pm said they had waited six hours. A brief amusement arose when a pizza vendor handed a pie to someone in line.
At least two counties briefly had problems with electronic polls used to verify voters. The problem voted for a while to stop at the State Farm Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA play. On-site technicians solved the problem and the lines were soon cleared in the arena, Georgia’s largest early voting site, with 300 voting machines.
“We are disappointed that this happened,” Hawks CEO Steve Kunin told reporters, but noted that there are still many days. Early personal voting lasts until October 30 in Georgia.
Problems with e-book polls – along with high voter turnout, polling station consolidation and a shortage of polls – made it difficult to focus on Georgia in June. Dysfunction has renewed questions about Georgia’s ability to hold fair elections, two years after the country came under heavy scrutiny during closely monitored elections for governors, who also saw long waits and other problems.
While voters must vote at their designated polling station on election day, they may vote at any polling station in their constituency during early voting. Some people lined up before dawn on Monday to be among the first to vote. Turnout may also have been increased because Monday is a federal holiday, so more people are out of work.
Natalie Rawlings, 49, had prepared to vote in absentia but did not trust the postal service, so she handed in a blank absence ballot to poll workers before voting in person on Monday.
She went first to a library in Atlanta, but there was no parking and a long queue, so she went to State Farm Arena, where the line did not run for 45 minutes. A handful of people left after someone announced that they had a “certain software problem” that they hoped to deal with. But most remained. In the end, it took her about an hour and a half to vote.
“I’m out. It’s a good day. They give water. There are worse things. And everyone is appropriately socially distanced,” Rawlings said.
Rawlings, a Democrat, said she was motivated by President Donald Trump’s “rudeness” of language and his apparent lack of respect for other government branches and world leaders: “It has to end.”
Election officials also reported long queues in Floyd County, which also had a problem with e-polls. This initially slowed things down at the two open polling stations in the county, but it was resolved within about an hour, said Robert Brady, the county’s chief election secretary.
“Usually 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 huge – and I’m talking about the huge – turnout.”
At Macon, Seth Clark arrived at the main election office around 9:30 a.m. Monday and found a U-shaped line enveloping the parking lot. In the end, it took him three hours to vote.
“I’ve never seen so many people on the first day of early voting,” said Clark, who won the summer election as a non-partisan member of the Macon-Bibb County committee.
The long line was partly caused by coronavirus precautions. People stood six feet away, wearing masks, Clark said. Some brought folding chairs and books.
“It seems to be going smoothly,” Clark said. “It’s just a lot.”
With Georgia emerging as a potential battlefield, the republican and democratic presidential campaigns sent deputies to the state on Monday.
Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, plans to appear in DeCalb County with prominent U.S. Democrats before traveling to Columbus to meet with military and veteran families.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr. was nominated for Republican voters in Savannah near the coast and Kenesow, just outside Atlanta.
Associated Press contributors include Brynn Anderson and Ben Nadler in Atlanta, Ron Harris in Marietta and Russ Bynum in Savannah.