Voters still lined up as troubled Fulton County poll closes

Angel Poventud volunteers handing out pizza donated by others to the Pittman Park Recreation Center precinct on Nov. 6, 2018.

Update at 7 p.m.: When the polls across Fulton County closed at 7 p.m., many people were still waiting to vote at Pittman Park Recreation Center.

The precinct had a rocky start to the day. It opened with only three machines, which the elections board admitted was a mistake. The long lines that quickly formed soon prompted a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who didn’t want anyone to get discouraged and leave. Five more machines were brought in.

By the evening rush hour, the Pittman Park polling location could have been mistaken for a block party.

Cars lined each side of a narrow street, with adults and children milling about or sitting down outside the building. A woman spoke into a microphone over gospel music to thank everyone for voting, while the woman next to her, who introduced herself as Pastor Anita, cheerfully grilled and served free hot dogs and hamburgers.

Pastor Anita had waited for three hours at that location to vote earlier in the day, and wanted to make sure others in her community weren’t voting “hangry.” Inside, Angel Poventud, a well-known community advocate, volunteered by handing out pizza donated by others.

Voters wait in line at Pittman Park Recreation Centers on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

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But news of the precinct’s troubles had reached beyond the Pittsburgh neighborhood.

Cara Frattasi and Sarah Zampell, who joined a Morningside neighborhood organization called Atlanta Women for Political Change created the day after President Donald Trump was elected, brought bottles of water and snacks. And Decatur resident Becky Payne, of the nonpartisan Election Protection group, helped people up the stairs and asked those leaving if they were able to vote successfully.

Rick Mallory, 39, voted after a two hour wait.

“I was going to get my vote in either way,” said the Florida native, who lists immigration, education and taxes among issues important to him. Still, the thought of the vote going to a runoff was daunting.

Voters wait in line at Pittman Park Recreation Centers on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

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“I wouldn’t want to face this again,” he said, taking a deep breath. “But I would bite the bullet.”

For Richard Towns, 57, the roughly three hour wait was also worth it.

“We’re long overdue for change,” he said. “It’s 2018 but it looks like it’s the 1950s.”

Update at 3:14 p.m.:

Some precincts have been operating smoothly in Fulton, while others have had issues with machines resulting in hours-long lines for voters.

One problem location was the Pittman Park Recreation Center, where only three machines were sent. Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said the mistake was a result of the wrong voter registration number being entered into the assignment; there should be one machine for every 350 registered voters in that precinct.

"I just want to tell the voters there that on behalf of me and my staff, we're sorry for the mix-up," Barron said in a morning press release.

Five more machines were eventually sent out, but not before the Rev. Jesse Jckson heard about the issue. The civil rights leader heard about the lines and went to the precinct to encourage people not to leave.

“If Nelson Mandela could wait 27 years, we can wait a few hours,” Jackson said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. His news release continued:

“It’s a classic example of voter suppression, denying people easy access to exercise their right to vote. But today, the people said we will not be deterred. We will not be defeated. They took out their cell phones and made videos of the attempted thievery. They blew up social media. They sent out the alarm. We won’t allow anyone to steal our rights or our democracy.”

County spokeswoman April Majors confirmed Jackson was at the center Tuesday morning.

“I’m sure he just wanted to encourage people to vote,” she said. More than 51,500 people had already cast ballots in Fulton by noon, Majors said.

Jackson also encouraged students at Morehouse College to vote Tuesday, according to the institution's Facebook page.

At Morris Brandon Elementary: Primary Center in Buckhead, a precinct that voted very much like state did in the presidential election, nearly 460 people had voted by about 2 p.m. Longtime polling manager Andrea Singleton said things had been running smoothly.

Original post at 7:31 a.m.:

Polls are open for Fulton County voters to cast ballots in one of America's most competitive gubernatorial contests and many down-ballot races.

Even before polls opened at 7 a.m. on this drizzly Tuesday morning, a line stretched from the polling area down a long hall, through the lobby and nearly out of door of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in East Point.

One of the early birds was first-time voter Teryn Griffin, whose mom went to hold her place in the rapidly-growing line as she paused outside. The 20-year-old wanted to vote early, but as a Herzing nursing student, couldn’t find the time until now.

"I think voting for everyone is very important,” Griffin said. “I just wanted to get out here early and go ahead and make sure that I vote, because every vote counts."

Teryn Griffin, 20, votes for the first time on Nov. 6, 2018.

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A busy polling manager said she expects to see about 1,000 people vote at the church throughout the day. Polls close at 7 p.m.

The ballot includes candidates for governor — Democrat Stacey Abrams, Republican Brian Kemp and Libertarian Ted Metz running to replace Republican Nathan Deal — in addition to other state offices, the Georgia Legislature, Congressional races and a list of local offices, mostly on the county level.

Check back here for the latest updates on Election Day in Fulton, and survey our overview of the governor's race, our last-minute voting guide and preview of what we're watching for this rainy Tuesday. For full coverage, check out Politically Georgia.

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