Election Day 2020: Power issues affect 3 voting locations in Gwinnett

Gwinnett’s 156 polling places opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Dozens of voters waited in line at two precincts before voting began.

Gwinnett County voters lined up in the early morning hours to cast their ballots and continued voting throughout the day despite a few snags.

Gwinnett’s 156 polling places opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Dozens of voters waited in line at two precincts before voting began.

As the morning wore on, several voting sites reported problems.

Three Lawrenceville-area schools serving as precincts lost power around 11:30 a.m. when a transformer blew. Corley Elementary School, Ferguson Elementary School and Sweetwater Middle School were affected. Sweetwater was briefly evacuated after someone smelled smoke, but no fire was discovered.

The locations used back-up power sources until power was restored at Corley and Ferguson, said Gwinnett County spokesman Joe Sorenson said. He didn’t immediately know the status at Sweetwater.

When voting sites first opened, a few poll managers incorrectly told voters who had requested absentee ballots that they needed to retrieve their absentee ballots and bring them back to the polls in order to vote. That resulted in voters being turned away from at least two locations before 9 a.m., Sorenson said.

“Those poll managers have been corrected and reminded of their training,” Sorenson said. “While it does speed up the process, you do not need your absentee ballot to vote today.”

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First-time voter Erika Fuentes, 19, arrived at the community center at Lucky Shoals Park on Britt Road in Norcross about an hour before the polls opened because she was concerned about long lines. She has to work at 10 a.m. at Little Caesars Pizza and was one of roughly 50 who stood outside in the chilly morning to wait for doors to open.

Erika Fuentes, 19, of Gwinnett County voted in her first election on Tuesday. She showed up to her polling location an hour before doors opened and said it only took minutes for her to cast her ballot. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC
Erika Fuentes, 19, of Gwinnett County voted in her first election on Tuesday. She showed up to her polling location an hour before doors opened and said it only took minutes for her to cast her ballot. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Fuentes said she was a bit nervous about casting her first ballot, but the poll workers were helpful and the process went quickly.

“I feel like people don’t expect as a younger person to care so much about ... our country,” she said. “As things are going on right now you start to like realize this is actually important for you to speak up.”

ExploreEverything you need to know about voting in Georgia

One of the first voters to cast their ballots at Best Friend Park in Norcross was Ellis Jefferson, who showed up roughly 15 minutes before polls opened.

“I always vote early, and this year wasn’t going to be any different,” he said, noting that he expected a longer wait.

The lines grew at Best Friend Park after the polls opened. Around 7:25 a.m. there were about 50 people in line. Landmark Church in Peachtree Corners was the opposite, going from a line of nearly 50 people at opening to no line at 9 a.m. Voters were able to walk right up to a poll worker and were in-and-out within 15 minutes or so.

“I was expecting to have to wait in line a little longer, but this was terrific,” Oz Yaish said as he walked out of the church. “It’s definitely the shortest wait I’ve ever had to vote.”

Voters cast their ballots at Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center in Norcross, Ga., on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)
Voters cast their ballots at Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center in Norcross, Ga., on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

Lyndsey Sykes, 37, voted just before 9 a.m. at Annistown Elementary School in Snellville.

“It took me longer to drive than go in,” she said of her five-minute trip to the polls. “I don’t mind voting on Election Day. It’s something about the thrill of voting on the actual day.”

She said she’s most concerned about the country “going back in time” and also is worried about the spread of hate and fear-mongering. She’s the mother of a newborn and a 3-year-old.

“You don’t want to bring children into this world knowing that you may not be able to protect them because of somebody else’s ignorance,” she said. For that reason, Sykes said this election felt even more important to participate in.

Election workers reported that 73 people had voted at the Snellville site in the first hour polls were open. By 9 a.m. voters were moving quickly. It took Marie Jones only 10 minutes to walk in, vote and walk out.

“It was pretty easy. I loved it. It was kind of fun doing the little stylus,” she said of the ballot-marking tool.

Jones said she’s confident her vote will be counted accurately because she believes in the system.

“I think they’re doing everything they can to make sure everything works out all right,” she said.

The Annistown Elementary School polling location in Gwinnett County was calm on Tuesday morning. Election workers reported that 73 people had voted at the Snellville site by 8 a.m. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC
The Annistown Elementary School polling location in Gwinnett County was calm on Tuesday morning. Election workers reported that 73 people had voted at the Snellville site by 8 a.m. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

By 10 a.m., 396 people had voted at Anderson-Livsey Elementary School in Snellville.

Anthony Sledge, 20, who voted at the school, said this is the third election he’s participated in. It’s the first time he’s cast a ballot in a presidential election.

“I wanted to get out here,” he said. “It feels great to get out here and vote, because I feel like now I’ve got a hand (in it)."

Anthony Sledge, 20, voted Tuesday in Gwinnett County and then flashed his voting sticker outside Anderson-Livsey Elementary School in Snellville. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC
Anthony Sledge, 20, voted Tuesday in Gwinnett County and then flashed his voting sticker outside Anderson-Livsey Elementary School in Snellville. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Credit: Vanessa McCray

Regardless of what happens Tuesday, Gwinnett residents have already cast more votes than during the entirety of the 2016 presidential election.

Nearly 335,000 ballots were cast and accepted by the county via mail-in absentee votes and in-person early votes combined, surpassing the 332,149 votes cast in Gwinnett in 2016. Roughly 58% of registered voters in Gwinnett voted before Election Day.

Polls throughout Gwinnett County will be open until 7 p.m., and residents are allowed to vote if they’re in line by that time. Visit the Secretary of State’s website to find your polling place.

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