A disastrous primary election day in the southeastern U.S. state of Georgia Tuesday overshadowed a handful of key races to choose general election candidates for the November general election.
The chaos was a combination of a new set of computerized voting machines that either malfunctioned or failed to arrive on time at polling stations, volunteers who did not know how to operate the machines and a lack of provisional ballots led to voters standing in long lines for hours, with the wait extending well into the night. Many voters eventually gave up and left.
The coronavirus pandemic also contributed to the chaos, with at least 1.2 million voters casting their ballots by mail instead of standing outside waiting to vote and risking infection. The pandemic also led to a shortage of volunteers, prompting local officials to reduce the number of polling locations.
The problems were reported statewide, but were most notable in Fulton County, home of the state capital of Atlanta, and neighboring DeKalb County, both of them Democratic strongholds with a predominantly African-American populace.
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose office oversees Georgia’s statewide elections, said he would launch an investigation into the problems in Fulton and DeKalb, but Democrats, led by Stacy Abrams, a former African American state lawmaker, placed the blame squarely on Raffensperger.
Tuesday’s problems were reminiscent of the 2018 gubernatorial race, which Abrams narrowly lost to then-Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp. That election was also marred by numerous problems, including the purging of hundreds of thousands of citizens from voter rolls, many of them African American, fueling charges of voter suppression.
Meanwhile, preliminary results show Democrat Jon Ossoff with a sizeable lead over his two opponents in the race for the party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate race. But Ossoff is just short of the 50% threshold needed to avoid an August runoff. Ossoff, who lost his bid for an open congressional seat in 2017, is seeking to take on Republican incumbent David Perdue, a close ally of President Donald Trump.
Also holding primary elections Tuesday were Nevada, South Carolina, North Dakota and West Virginia. Many of these states also sent out mail-in ballots to voters who wanted to avoid being infected with COVID-19.