Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, has ordered an investigation into what happened to impede voting in majority minority counties in Tuesday’s primary election. Voters in Atlanta faced long queues with some residents waiting as long as four hours to vote. Some areas reported shortages of new voting machines and a lack of back-up paper ballots while technical issues made voting impossible in other areas. This was Georgia’s first election with its new $107 million voting system, which is backed up with paper ballots for the first time in 18 years.
Atlanta’s Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms went to Twitter to report that voting machines were not working in many cases. “If you are in line, PLEASE do not allow your vote to be suppressed,” she wrote. “PLEASE stay in line.”
Raffensperger, who is in charge of elections in Georgia, called the situation “unacceptable” and promised “to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election.”
The pandemic has created a greater need for mail-in voting alongside the difficulties of implementing the usual system of in-person voting. State and local governments in the US are burdened with financial strain and time management issues rooted in the difficulties of simultaneously managing a pandemic, an economic collapse and a large scale protest movement. Many poll workers chose to not participate in the election to avoid contracting COVID-19.
In 2013, a Supreme Court decision weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it removed 60s-era protections that had prevented states and localities with recent histories of racial discrimination in voting, including Georgia, from redesigning electoral rules without federal oversight. The issue in Georgia is whether or not this incident is a matter of incompetence or part of a pattern of voter suppression, one that results from the relaxed rules.