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Handful of voting problems reported amid heavy turnout

There were a handful of problems at polling places across the state Tuesday as a wave of Georgia voters turned out to elect a new president, a U.S. senator and a slate of local officials.

Among other minor issues, there was a small fire reported at a DeKalb County polling place and one of the electronic polling book devices at Christ United Methodist Church in Albany temporarily stopped working.

Generally, poll workers reported voting was going smoothly, though many places across the state reported heavy turnout Tuesday morning with lines at several locations. Poll workers were expecting another rush of voters before polls close at 7 p.m.

“I’m pleased to say all the polls opened on time and on schedule,” Fulton County elections director Richard Barron told The AJC. “We’re expecting 70 percent turnout.”

The previous Fulton early voting record in 2012 was 152,562. When absentee ballots come in, Barron said he expects the early vote will be about 284,000.

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“It’s a major accomplishment for us,” he said. “Early voting worked in our favor. We’re pleased that our residents listened.”

During the early voting period that ended Friday, there were few problems aside from isolated reports of voting machines ‘flipping’ voters’ presidential choices. A record 2.38 million people statewide cast their ballots during that time.

DeKalb County fire Capt. Eric Jackson said firefighters responded to a fire just before 11:50 a.m. Tuesday at the All Saints Catholic Church in the 2400 block of Mount Vernon Road in Dunwoody. Firefighters had the situation under control before noon, but the evacuation temporarily suspended voting at the church.

“We are going to have to extend hours at that polling place,” Mary Frances with the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections said. The site will remain open an additional 20 minutes, officials said.

The fire was one of several issues voters found when they went to the polls. There were technical glitches in Gwinnett County; delays in the openings of two polling sites in that same county; and long lines in Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb.

Lines started forming early Tuesday as poll workers prepared for Election Day. Grady High School poll manager Melvin Davis Jr. set up machines just after 6 a.m.

That location brought out early riser Mike Plehal, who said he wanted to secure his spot in line. Cars filed into parking lots in Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett, and long lines formed before polls opened 7 a.m.

The Winnona Park precinct in the City of Decatur is historically Democratic. That has been on display this morning with the number of women showing up to vote in pantsuits, the adopted emblem of Hillary Clinton supporters. A preteen girl, spotting a voter leaving the voting site in a pantsuit, yelled out, “Yes! Pantsuit!”

There were several false reports of voting problems.

Gwinnett County spokesman Joe Sorenson said social media reports that an electricity problem led to down voting machines at Peachtree Elementary School were wrong.

“That is incorrect,” he said. However, he did report a “power problem” at the Bogan Park Community Recreation and Aquatic Center. Sorenson said the county was sending someone out to address the problem earlier Tuesday and he didn’t know if voters could cast votes as of 10:35 a.m.

Reports of inoperable voting machines at Therrell High School also proved false. Fulton County spokeswoman April Majors said.

“We don’t understand how that rumor has spread,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She added machines have been working properly and more than 200 people have voted.

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