ELECTION 2018: Gwinnett voters motivated by Trump, national issues

Voters line up at Duluth City Hall.

4:38 p.m.: Voters at Duluth City Hall didn't have to wait too long to cast their ballot; only 10 or 20 minutes to move through a short line from the door to the sign-in table.

Nearly 1,000 people had voted as of 3 p.m., a sign at the polling station said. People steadily streamed into city hall from the adjacent Town Green and downtown shops, earning two “I Voted” stickers if they cast a separate ballot in Duluth’s city elections in addition to the federal and state races.

Felicia Bogle, 23, felt guilty after failing to vote in 2016. She’s not happy with President Donald Trump and wanted to vote for a “change,” she said. For her, that started with casting a ballot for Stacey Abrams.

“She can make big changes for us,” Bogle said. “As the first African-American as governor, she will make history.”

Diana Gustafson, 74, was very happy with Trump’s first two years; the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was one of the top issues that motivated her to come out and support Republicans up and down the ballot. She was also concerned about immigration policy. As an immigrant from England, she is strongly opposed to illegal immigration.

“If I could come here legally, other people can too,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson agreed with gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp’s stance on illegal immigration, which includes banning sanctuary cities and speeding up the deportation process.

1:03 p.m.: Issues at voting machines in Snellville and Grayson had been fixed by 12:30 p.m., but that didn't whittle down the long lines.

Faith Community Church in Grayson had an issue with the Express Polls program, as did the polling place at Annistown Elementary School, when voting was supposed to begin. The issue was resolved in an hour and machine voting resumed, said Diane Theriault, the poll manager for Faith Community Church.

As of 11 a.m., more than 250 ballots had been cast at Faith Community Church. A line of voters looped from one hallway, through the church sanctuary and into another hallway; Theriault said it was the largest turnout she’s seen in a midterm election.

“It’s an enormous amount of people for this location,” Theriault said.

By noon, the Express Polls issue was resolved at Annistown Elementary, where Democratic candidates and politicians, as well as Republican state senate candidate Annette Davis-Jackson, held a press conference encouraging voters to return if they had left due to the lines or downed machines.

“It’s not so much about party, it’s about people having the ability to go cast their votes,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, the incumbent congressman in Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, which is mostly in DeKalb County but includes part of Gwinnett.

Johnson tried to assuage the fears of some voters who did not want to cast a paper ballot because they didn’t trust that it would be properly counted.

“A provisional ballot is better than no ballot at all,” Johnson said. Some voters who did not want to wait for the voting machines at Annistown to be fixed cast provisional ballots. “A paper ballot is important because it can be audited. People should not be dissuaded from voting on paper. It’s a good thing.”

Tabitha Fudge, who refused to leave the polling place until she could vote on a machine, finally got to vote at 12:30 p.m. She proudly pointed at her “I voted” sticker as she ran towards her car; it was time for work.

For those who couldn't stick around like Fudge, the polling place will be open an extra 25 minutes, the Georgia Secretary of State's Office said. Anyone in line at that time will be allowed to vote.

10:39 a.m.: Voting machine issues plagued two Snellville voting precincts Tuesday morning.

Cheryl Strickland, 53, showed up to Annistown Elementary School at 6:15 a.m., 45 minutes before polls opened. By 10:30 a.m., she was still standing in the hallway at Annistown, waiting to be able to cast a ballot on a voting machine.

The line started to build after 7 a.m., Strickland said, because voting machines weren’t working. The issue was the electronic Express Polls program, which is used to check voters in at precincts, according to the county. Voters were offered paper ballots, but she and other voters were skeptical of using paper.

“If I have to wait here until 8 o’ clock at night, I will,” Strickland said.

Tabitha Fudge, 25, had been waiting 30 minutes for the issue to be resolved. She, too, refused to use a paper ballot.

“I do not feel like it will be counted correctly,” Fudge said.

At Anderson-Livsey Elementary School, also in Snellville, about four miles away, voting machines were running without power cords and died after 45 minutes of power use, causing long lines while poll workers got the appropriate cords to keep the machines up and running. Express Polls issues also temporarily hampered operations at Harbins Elementary School and  Suwanee Library, county spokesman Joe Sorenson said. At Anderson-Livsey, voters waited for more than an hour during the issue; only 85 votes were cast between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. The issue had been resolved by 10:30 a.m., Sorenson said.

Travon Stanton waited for more than an hour — he got to Anderson-Livsey Elementary around 8am and left around 9:45 a.m. He said it was worth the wait to cast a ballot.

“I want to have my voice heard,” Stanton said.

Stanton voted for Stacey Abrams; he believes she would work to “make Georgia better.”

Tori Frazier, 29, waited at least an hour to cast her ballot for Brian Kemp. She’s used to waiting; she stood in a three-hour line at Mountain Park Community Center in 2016.

“You don’t get to have an opinion if you don’t wait in line to vote,” Frazier said.

Frazier wasn’t a fan of either gubernatorial candidate, but chose Kemp as the “lesser of two evils.” She was particularly put off by the photo of Stacey Abrams participating in the burning of a Georgia flag while Abrams was a student at Spelman College.

“There’s too much in her past that’s not good for this state,” Frazier said. “I’m not about burning flags.”

7:10 a.m.:Rain came in bursts as polls opened in Gwinnett County on Tuesday morning.

After 25 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots during early voting, Nov. 6 is the last day for the remaining 75 percent to make their picks for governor, U.S. House and many state and local seats.

READ | More than 25 percent of Gwinnett County voters have already cast a ballot

Voters hurried inside at Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center, with dozens of cars filling the Norcross polling place’s parking lot before voting began at 7 a.m.

Dozens of voters waited in line at 7 a.m. to cast a ballot at Pinckneyville Park Community Recreation Center, a Norcross polling place on Nov. 6, 2018.

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The polling place has a history of strong turnout, with nearly 200 people lined up before polls opened on Election Day in November 2016, poll manager Gary Weir said in May.

Today, the turnout was strong, but it’s too early to say whether it will be higher than previous midterms, Weir said Tuesday morning. The first few voters got to the  polling place at 6 a.m., a full hour before ballots could be cast.

Jerry Henderson didn’t get there quite as early as 6 a.m., but he was one of the day’s first voters, casting a ballot around 7:30 a.m. He was excited to vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, already referring to her as "Governor." He felt Abrams reached out to a more diverse group of Georgians -- both economically and racially -- during her campaign, encouraging him that she would work to ensure "equality for all" in Georgia.

"I didn't see that with Kemp," Henderson said.

Peachtree Corners City Councilwoman Jeanne Aulbach also cast her ballot in the first hour of voting. She didn’t disclose which candidates she chose, but said she felt obligated to go to the polls.

“To me, voting is a right, a responsibility and a privilege,” Aulbach said. “It’s one of the most important things we can do for our country, our city and our state.”

At nearby Best Friend Park, another Norcross polling place, many voters huddled in their cars before the polls opened. A heavy bout of rain pelted the park around 6:30 a.m. as poll workers finished hanging up signs.

Polls are open in  Gwinnett from 7 a.m. from 7 p.m. You can find your polling place on the county's website.

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