Atlanta voters at the polls

Atlanta voters let their voices be heard on Election Day.

Reporters with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were at several precincts Tuesday to ask voters about issues and candidates.

Around 5 p.m., a steady stream of voters made their way inside the polling site at the Cathedral of Saint Philip, on Peachtree Road. Among them was Atlanta resident Beth Lanier. “I had come by earlier and it looked real crowded, so I waited and it was in and out,” she said. Though she typically takes advantage of early voting, Lanier said she didn’t cast her ballot until Election Day this time around because she “couldn’t figure out who to vote for for mayor … It took me a while.” Ultimately, she settled on Sharon Gay, because she thought she was best equipped to tackle the issue that drove her to the polls: crime. “I love this city and I think we are in trouble,” Lanier said. 

Crime was a top-of-mind concern for other voters at the Cathedral of Saint Philip. “The city has been overtaken my crime. It’s unbelievable,” said Laura Kane, who recalled fearing for her safety in the spring of 2020, when a peaceful march against police violence descended into chaos in the Lenox Square Mall area, close to Kane’s home. “They destroyed Lenox Square ... It’s terrifying a little bit. It’s all around me.” 

Alina Lee, 31, said her voting experience at the Butler Street Baptist Church location was “a breeze.” By comparison, when she came to vote at this location during the 2018 gubernatorial election, she said she waited in line for four-and-a-half hours. Lee said she wanted to “make a difference in moving things in a more progressive direction” in the city. She cited defunding the police and providing more social services addressing issues like homelessness as her top priorities. For these reasons, she supported Councilman Andre Dickens for mayor. ”He was the most progressive candidate who has a decent chance of potentially making it to the runoff,” Lee said.

James Read, a 22-year-old doctoral student at Georgia Tech, cast his first vote in Georgia using a provisional ballot. He said that the Lutheran Church of the First Redeemer, where he voted, was closer to his location at 7 p.m. than his assigned voting precinct. Originally from Michigan, Read said he chose to vote for former Mayor Kasim Reed after doing brief research, saying that Reed’s platform and website were “very eloquent with what he was going to try to change.”

Nicole Lara, a four-year resident of Buckhead, said the issue of homelessness concerns her. It should not be “criminalized,” she said, and should be treated as a symptom of other issues than can be addressed by local leaders. She picked Andre Dickens for Atlanta mayor, saying she liked his platform and experience.

In south Atlanta, at Cleveland Elementary School, voter Janice Hayes also said she voted for Dickens. “I feel he’ll do what he can for seniors in our city, and to help low-income people,” said Hayes.

Renay Allen was drawn to vote at the school by the Atlanta mayor’s race. She said crime and affordable housing were big issues. She planned to vote for Felicia Moore for Atlanta mayor, saying she’d lived in Atlanta when Kasim Reed was mayor and Moore would bring a different perspective.

Earl Carter, 62, voted for Kasim Reed. “I like him,” Carter said. “He may not be the one you want to drink with, but he is the one who will get you what you want to go to have that drink.” Carter, who voted at the Coan Park recreational center in the DeKalb County portion of Atlanta, said the voting process was smooth. ”It was the quickest I’ve ever had it,” he said. “In and out. No lines. No long wait.”

Stanley Malone, a senior citizen, cast his vote at Dogwood Senior Center in Atlanta’s Grove Park neighborhood. He supports Reed because he will do the best job tackling crime and creating jobs. “He’s a veteran” of the mayor’s office. “He’s been there before. He knows the job.”

Donna Mitchell and her family were among the voters who came out early Tuesday morning to cast ballots at the Park Tavern polling location next to Piedmont Park. Mitchell and her husband, John, and daughter, Ella, all voted for Andre Dickens. “Crime is out of control,” said Donna Mitchell. “It doesn’t appear anybody is addressing it.”

Kevin Bateman, a voter at Greater Bethany Baptist Church in Vine City, said he voted for Felicia Moore because she would do the best job addressing crime and crumbling streets and sidewalks. “I live right down the street and crime seems to be getting a little worse. I’d definitely like to see more policing in these areas although that can cause intimidation” among residents.

Adrian Warner, also at the church, said his top two choices for mayor were Kasim Reed and Sharon Gay, though he declined to say which one he voted for. Warner wants the next mayor to boost funding for community centers, programs for at-risk youth and job opportunities. “You get to minorities and inner city youth sooner, they’re less likely to commit crimes even if they don’t have the necessary parental guidance at home.” Warner also said that with better training of police, residents won’t automatically see them as threatening. “I’ve been racially profiled but I don’t assume all cops are like that.”

-- AJC reporters Kelly Yamanouchi, Andy Peters, Leon Stafford and Brad Schrade contributed to this article.