Lines expected as election day finally arrives in Georgia

Amanda McElveen holds 1-year old Luna, left, as Justin McElveen interacts while they and other voters stand in line in the rain at Garden Hills Elementary School in Atlanta on Friday, the last day of early voting for the Georgia primary. Lines lasted for hours in some places. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Amanda McElveen holds 1-year old Luna, left, as Justin McElveen interacts while they and other voters stand in line in the rain at Garden Hills Elementary School in Atlanta on Friday, the last day of early voting for the Georgia primary. Lines lasted for hours in some places. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Long lines and late results are in store for Georgia voters who go to the polls Tuesday amid the coronavirus, social distancing and a high chance of rain.

Georgia's primary election is finally here, the last chance for voters to decide on their party's candidates for president, Congress, the Georgia General Assembly and judges.

>> RELATED: Voters struggle with lines and equipment as polls open in Georgia

More than 1.2 million people have already voted in advance, mostly by mail, but hundreds of thousands more are expected to cast their ballots Tuesday.

“This election day will look different,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “There will be lines. Voters will be interacting with a whole new system. Results will be slower. Things would be better if it weren’t for this pandemic, but it is what it is.”

wait before voting is assured in some precincts.

Voters will be spaced 6 feet apart. Only a few voters at a time will be allowed inside to cast their ballots. Poll workers will take time to clean touchscreens to prevent the spread of germs.

Once voters get inside, they'll use a new voting system that prints out a paper ballot after they work through a long selection of choices, with many candidates and several nonbinding questions.

In addition, over 10% of Georgia's precincts have closed, especially churches that are unwilling to risk letting voters inside during the health crisis.

That means some voters will be crammed into what Raffensperger called “mega polling locations,” such as a restaurant in Piedmont Park that will host voters normally assigned to a church and Grady High School in Midtown Atlanta. Election officials moved nearly 18,000 registered voters to Park Tavern.

Election results will also be delayed, possibly for days, in some contests because of the time it might take to count so many absentee ballots. A record 943,000 voters have returned absentee ballots so far.

Raffensperger announced Monday that he wouldn’t release any election results until the last precinct in the state closes Tuesday night. While precincts are scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., voting locations will keep their doors open late to accommodate voters waiting in line.

“I ask everyone to be patient. We are in fact all in this together,” Raffensperger said. “I just don’t believe in releasing results while other voters are actively voting.”

Voters should do their part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on election day, said Marybeth Sexton, an infectious diseases professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine.

They should wear face masks, keep 6 feet away from other voters in line and frequently sanitize their hands, she said.

“We’ve been very careful in general to avoid crowds, but it’s really important that people have a chance to vote,” Sexton said. “It really is possible to do this fairly safely” if voters take precautions.

Precincts will be equipped with sanitizer and styluses so voters can avoid having to use their fingers on touchscreens.

Voters who requested absentee ballots can still return them on election day, allowing those voters to avoid lines.

Absentee ballots will be counted if voters deliver them to drop boxes set up across metro Atlanta by 7 p.m. Tuesday. But absentee ballots put in the mail at this point wouldn't arrive in time because under Georgia law, they must be received by election officials before polls close on election day.

Voters can check their precinct locations and view sample ballots online on the My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

Before you go to the polls

  • Confirm your precinct location and review sample ballots at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.
  • Bring a snack, water, face mask and umbrella in case you get stuck in line.
  • Plan which candidates you'll vote for ahead of time.

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