We waited almost five hours to vote in my Georgia precinct
I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to go to my usual polling place at the Annistown Elementary School, in Snellville, Georgia. I follow politics very closely, and with the heavy coverage of the Georgia governor’s race, I was especially excited to participate this year. When I arrived at 7:05 a.m., there were already a couple dozen people ahead of me. All of us were a little surprised at the wait – we’d shown up right when the polls opened, thinking that we would beat the line – but we didn’t think much of it, at first. I’d shown up in my gym clothes, expecting to fit in a workout before my 10 a.m. shift at the television station.
Soon, though, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Back in 2016, when my parents and I had come here to vote, we’d waited for about a half-hour, but that line was always in motion. This time, we were at a standstill. They weren’t just having a slow start – something was wrong.
Around 7:45 a.m., the poll workers told us that they were having technical difficulties with the electronic voting system, ExpressPoll, specifically with machine that checks you in and puts your ballot information onto a card that you take into the voting booth. They’d let us know when they’d resolved the issue. Hearing this, a few people began to walk away, but others encouraged them to stay.
So we settled in. At 8 a.m., I texted my manager to let her know about the situation. At around 8:15 a.m., we were told that voting officials were bringing us a new machine. Two machines arrived at 8:45 a.m. The poll workers tried using those for another 45 minutes until they realized that the issue might actually be with the cards. Someone would have to go to a separate location in Lawrenceville to bring them back, which would take them about an hour. In the meantime, we were offered provi- sional paper ballots. But when we called the election protection hotline, we were advised against it – we weren’t sure if those ballots would be counted correctly.
Some of us perched on kiddie-size chairs borrowed from the classrooms, or sat on the floor. A few folks stepped out to take a cigarette break. Around 9 a.m., some even made a Walmart run and brought back juice, water and little snacks. It was the kind of situation where you didn’t have to ask someone to hold your spot – the line wasn’t going anywhere.
People were frustrated and in disbelief. None of us were exactly surprised, though. Our suburb of Atlanta, Gwinnett County, is a pretty racially mixed neighborhood, and had Brian Kemp and Stacy Abrams signs posted everythe where (though it did go for Hillary Clinton in 2016). We’d all been following the news, and the problems people were having with registering to vote, or with making sure their names were on the rolls. Just a couple of weeks ago, the county election officials were sued for rejecting absentee ballots. In a way, we were expecting something to go wrong.
The officials got back to the school with the cards around 11. Someone else brought in doughnuts. At this point, most of us were determined to stick it out. Waiting for nearly 5 hours tested my resolve, but I decided that I was going to make it to the booth no matter what. I wasn’t going to leave, and I wasn’t going to settle for a paper ballot.
I was finally able to vote at 11:45 a.m., and I let my boss know I was on the way. I got changed into professional clothes, and made it into the office. But plenty of people don’t have this kind of flexibility: I saw maybe 20 or 30 people give up on the line.
Later I heard that three other precincts had problems with the electronic system. They ended up extending polling hours at my location, until 9:25 p.m. People worried that Kemp was trying to keep people from voting. Though the issues we faced today might not be the result of his interference, those fears seem valid now.
WE’D ALL BEEN FOLLOWING THE NEWS, AND THE PROBLEMS PEOPLE WERE HAVING WITH REGISTERING TO VOTE, OR WITH MAKING SURE THEIR NAMES WERE ON THE ROLLS. JUST A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, THE COUNTY ELECTION OFFICIALS WERE SUED FOR REJECTING ABSENTEE BALLOTS.