Primary elections have begun in the US and states such as Nevada, South Carolina, West Virginia and North Dakota cast their ballot on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic. Within minutes of polls opening, long queues had formed in Atlanta as volunteers struggled with the state of Georgia’s new election system.
Expectedly, the long winding queues were attributed to the practice of social distancing, with others attributing the delays to severe technical issues that made it impossible for some locations to cast their ballots. As frustrations grew, Democrat’s Mayor for Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms went on twitter to address the issue, saying the voting machines “are not working”. She said, “If you are in line, PLEASE, do not allow your vote to be suppressed…PLEASE stay in line”.
Also, Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath alleged “voter suppression” accounts for the delays tweeting, “Unacceptable. Our citizens have a right to vote. Plain and simple”. Voting inquisition has been initiated by Georgia Secretary of state; Brad Raffensperger insisting on an investigation into the way voting was conducted in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
In an interview with WAGA-TV, he called the situation “unacceptable” and promised to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election”. He further attributed the problems to other factors such as the lack of experienced poll workers numbering over a hundred who have stayed away due to coronavirus fears.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper, this is Georgia’s first elections with a new $104 million voting system, which introduces paper ballots to the state’s election for the first time in 18 years, and the system uses touch screen computers to generate ballot papers. DeKalb County Commissioner, Mereda Davis Johnson responded, “These are new machines and you expect people to run them in less than a couple of months? If this is a preview of November, then we’re in trouble”.
LeBron James, Basketball superstar always tweeted on the chaos indicating, “How we vote is also structurally racist”.
According to BBC News, earlier on Tuesday, Statewide Voting Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling who is responsible for the new system said in a statement through the secretary of state’s office;
“So far we have no reports of any actual equipment issue”. “We do have reports of equipments being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late. We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment,” adding that over 2,000 precincts across the state have not reported problems.
For a state like Georgia, this isn’t the first time their voting process has been riddled with such problems. In 2018, gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams refused to concede to the-then Secretary of State Brian Kemp claiming that the vote was hampered by suppression efforts from Republicans.
The vote is being regarded as a precursor to the November presidential election, with the incumbent President Donald Trump and the Democratic opposition, Joe Biden expected to competitively vie for Georgia in the race to the White House.