WASHINGTON – As five states held primary elections Tuesday amid nationwide protests against police brutality and the coronavirus pandemic, problems in Georgia took center stage.
Voters in Georgia waited in line for hours to cast their ballots and there were reports of problems with voting machines. The issues came just a week after voters in Indiana and Washington D.C. also saw long lines in the June 2 primary. Some activists and lawmakers have also warned that could signal problems for the general election on Nov. 3, where record turnout is expected.
“Today in Georgia, thousands of voters were met with long lines and confusion,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a statement. “In America, people shouldn’t have to wonder if voting machines will be operational, if their mail-in ballot will arrive in time, or whether they will have to wait hours in line to exercise their right to vote.”
Klobuchar, who has been working on legislation to expand voting amid the pandemic, said Congress must “make sure states have the resources they need to give Americans options to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
Georgia voters experience long lines, machines failing
Some Georgia voters reported waiting up to three hours or more at their polling places, as there was a reduction of voting locations and a shortage of poll workers. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday the outcome of the votes might not be available for days.
Georgia used its new ballot-marking machines Tuesday, which consist of digital touch screens that issue paper records of votes. However, in some precincts, voters said none of the machines were working properly, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms wrote on Twitter. The issues prompted some counties to extend their voting hours.
“Let’s all work, hope and pray that this not be a preview of November,” Bottoms tweeted.
Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said in a statement that her organization and the Brennan Center in January warned the Secretary of State’s Office to be prepared with “sufficient emergency paper ballots in case of voting machine failure.” She noted that in the several months leading up to the election, other voting rights groups issued similar warnings.
Dennis also called on Raffensperger to create a task force to prepare contingency plans for the upcoming elections.
“There are only five months until the general elections, which will almost certainly see record turnout,” she said. “Today’s problems were avoidable – and they disenfranchised voters. That must not be allowed to happen again.”
The issue isn’t likely to go away soon, as lawmakers and activists have warned for months that voting issues may occur, especially during the pandemic. The protests against police brutality and systemic racism have also highlighted concerns about disenfranchisement of voters of color.
“Everyone talking about ‘how do we fix this?’ They say ‘go out and vote?’ What about asking if how we vote is also structurally racist?” Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James wrote in a tweet Tuesday.
Here are other takeaways from Tuesday’s election:
Biden sweeps West Virginia, Georgia primaries
Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was projected win both the West Virginia and Georgia primaries shortly after polls began to close.
Georgia has long leaned Republican but some Democrats see an outside chance Biden could flip the state if turnout is high enough in November. Turnout in the primary could offer a potential gauge of voter enthusiasm ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
After last week’s primary election, Biden passed the 1,991 pledged delegate threshold to become his party’s nominee. He currently has over 2,010 pledged delegates. Biden last week swept all seven states holding presidential primaries, as well as Washington D.C. and became the presumptive nominee after Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out in April. Biden is expected to formally accept the party’s presidential nomination in August after running in the most diverse – and one of the largest – presidential primary races.
Ossoff holding lead to face Republican David Perdue in Georgia Senate race
Democrat Jon Ossoff is holding a strong lead to take on Sen. David Perdue in November’s general election.
It would be a big win for Ossoff who faced off against five other Democratic contenders. Ossoff, a former journalist, ran one of the most expensive special congressional elections in 2017, which he lost to the Republican. Democrats ultimately flipped the House seat during the 2018 midterms.
Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson; former candidate for lieutenant governor Sarah Riggs Amico; former ACLU of Georgia head Maya Dillard Smith; Air Force veteran James Knox and former state Senate candidate Marckeith DeJesus are the other Democratic candidates competing to face off against Perdue.
If none of the Democratic candidates receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two will proceed to a runoff Aug. 11.
Perdue, a close ally of Trump, is seeking a second term and drew no GOP primary opposition.
Sen. Lindsey Graham will officially face off against Democrat Jaime Harrison
Sen. Lindsey Graham warded off his Republican challengers and will go on to face Democrat Jaime Harrison in November.
Graham bested challenges from Duke Buckner, Michael Lapierre and Joe Reynolds Tuesday. Harrison, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The race between Graham and Harrison is expected to be expensive. Graham’s close alliance with President Donald Trump has made him a top target for Democrats even though flipping the seat is a long shot in South Carolina, which leans strongly Republican. Trump has enthusiastically backed Graham’s reelection bid and has campaigned for him.
Harrison has raised nearly $15 million for the campaign. Graham has raised $21 million.
Contributing: William Cummings and Jeanine Santucci