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Metro Atlanta polling places now closed

Voters waited in very long lines at Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta on election day on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. JOHN SPINK / JOHN.SPINK@AJC.COM
Voters waited in very long lines at Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta on election day on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. JOHN SPINK / JOHN.SPINK@AJC.COM

Primary election day in Georgia arrived Tuesday as voters braced for lines and social distancing at the polls.

It will be a unique election held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are minute-by-minute updates on Tuesday’s election from AJC reporters and photographers on the scene:

10:15 p.m. update: After a tumultuous and contentious day, metro Atlanta polling places are officially closed.

Human error or mechanical problems plagued many polling places. At some, hundreds of voters waited to cast their ballot – some for hours. State and local officials traded blame for what some deemed a complete meltdown of Georgia’s voting system while the nation was watching.

Here’s how the day unfolded.

9:32 p.m. update: Nearly all metro Atlanta polling places are now closed, though voters still in line at a handful of locations set to close at 9:30 p.m. will still be allowed to vote.

A single DeKalb County precinct - Ray of Hope Christian Church near Decatur - will remain open until 10:10 p.m. Read more details here.

9:15 p.m. update: Justin Antoine waited about an hour and a half to cast his ballot Tuesday night. At 8:45 p.m. he was one of the late voters at Stephenson High School in DeKalb, one of the precincts in the county where voting hours were extended Tuesday.

“I thought it was a very important election and a very important year to vote,” said Antoine, 67. “I think change is required in terms of equality of justice.”

Justin Antoine
Justin Antoine

Antoine, an accountant, has voted at Stephenson High for more than a decade. Tuesday’s wait was the longest he’s experienced since former President Barack Obama ran for office in 2008.

Top of mind for him this primary election was voting for U.S. Senate candidate John Ossoff. “I support his stance for a change in the justice system,” Antoine said.

He thought waiting until evening to vote would ensure a shorter wait, but if Tuesday is any indication of what’s to come in November, Antoine will try a different plan: “I will definitely try to get (to the polls) very, very early in the morning.”

8:40 update: Around 8:30 p.m., DeKalb officials announced that all precincts that had still been still open at 7 p.m. -- whether because voters were still in line or for any other reason -- would stay open until 9:30 p.m.

Officials did not immediately have a list of affected precincts or an estimate of how many were affected.

But they said voters who arrive at such locations prior to 9:30 p.m. will still be able to vote, even if they weren't originally in line by 7 p.m.

Ray Hope Christian Church near Decatur will remain open until 10:10 p.m., as previously reported.

8:27 p.m. update: Long lines continued after 8 p..m. at the fanplex across from Georgia State University stadium (i.e., the old Turner Field). Meghan Shakar, left and Alexis Goldman with Pizza Protest ATL handing out free pizza to sustain people during their wait to vote.

Meghan Shakar, left and Alexis Goldman with Pizza Protest ATL handing out free pizza to sustain people during their wait to vote at the fanplex across from GSU stadium. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Meghan Shakar, left and Alexis Goldman with Pizza Protest ATL handing out free pizza to sustain people during their wait to vote at the fanplex across from GSU stadium. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: BEN GRAY BEN@BENGRAY.COM

Credit: BEN GRAY BEN@BENGRAY.COM

8:15 p.m. update: One of the Gwinnett County precincts that was open past 7 p.m., Beaver Ruin Baptist Church, was changed at the last minute, Gwinnett County spokesperson Joe Sorenson said. The original location - St. Mary's of Egypt Orthodox Church – wouldn't allow voting there because of concerns about COVID-19, he said.

The county’s Board of Registrations & Elections approved the change at its Thursday meeting and posted a notice on the county website and at the church. But there was still some confusion from voters, who said on social media that they weren’t aware of the change.

Beaver Ruin Baptist Church didn’t close until 7:14 p.m. Sorenson said poll workers had trouble getting voting machines to work, and waited until the equipment was working to open the polls instead of allowing voters to cast emergency ballots.

7:48 p.m. update: State election officials and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were ready to deal with problems as counties began counting votes Tuesday night. One precinct reported problems with a scanner, but there was no indication of foreign interference.

The secretary of state's office isn't releasing election results until the last poll in the state closes at 10:10 p.m. in DeKalb County, but a flood of results is expected to be released soon afterward.

Here’s a look inside the secretary of states election night war room:

A look inside the secretary of state's election night war room. (MARK NIESSE/AJC)
A look inside the secretary of state's election night war room. (MARK NIESSE/AJC)

Poll closure times listed in the secretary of state’s war room:

Poll closure times listed in the secretary of state’s war room. (MARK NIESSE/AJC)
Poll closure times listed in the secretary of state’s war room. (MARK NIESSE/AJC)

7:33 p.m. update: Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron has issued a statement on today's elections:

I want to thank the voters who participated in this election. Your overwhelming response to the call to participate in the electoral process speaks volumes about our citizens' commitment to using their voice.

While we do not yet have projections for overall turnout, we know that before today, we had more than 16% voter turnout during early voting and absentee voting. I predict that we exceeded turnout for the 2018 Election of around 20%.

By now you know that this election was one unlike any other that we have experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to make a mug more aggressive push for absentee voting as it also created unique staffing and logistical challenges. We had several poll locations shift or consolidate as they became unavailable due to our current situation.

This was also our first major election using new equipment. I want to thank our poll workers for their patience and dedication during today's elections.

The majority of our precincts had minimal issues throughout the day.

All that being said, this is a learning experience for our team and we have some takeaways from today's events. We have identified several areas for improvement to help us be better prepared for the General Election in November. Specifically, these include our absentee ballot process, tailoring poll worker training to emphasize the issues we identified today, and undertaking an efficiency review for other process improvements.

7:20 p.m. update: Fifteen Gwinnett  County precincts will remain open until 7:30 p.m. Details here.

Meanwhile, Fulton County precincts will remain open until 9 p.m.

Hundreds of voters parked wherever their vehicles would fit on the Johns Creek Environmental campus on Tuesday evening.

Carleigh Hyser and her mother Kristin Gotham waited an hour and a half to cast their ballots and got caught in the rain.

The two said they didn’t mind the wait but Gotham added that had her daughter not been with her, she probably would’ve returned home without voting.

“I though it was cool how you got to double check your choices on the screen and printout,” Gotham said.

Hyser usually votes absentee but said events of the last several weeks motivated her to go to the polls in person.

“With everything that’s been going on, I thought it was really important for me to get here and vote for my party,” Hyser, a junior at the University of Georgia, said. “I want a leader who definitely could handle the pandemic a little better. And for Black Lives Matter, I want a leader who definitely supports that and is about inclusion.”

Gotham said she and her daughter often agree on the same issues but differ on the approach.

“We’re kind of a family divided but in the same house,” Gotham said.

Dylan Bonselaar waited two hours, at moments in the rain, to vote at the campus. Bonselaar, who works in supply chain for a small company, said recent events brought him to the polls.

“To be honest since (Joe) Biden had everything wrapped up, I thought I would go ahead and skip it, Bonselaar said. “But with everything going on, I thought, it’s not just about the top of the ticket, it’s about the whole thing. I thought that was worth coming out for.”

Bonselaar, Hyser and Gotham said voters maintained social distancing outside the precinct but less so inside.

Mother and daughter, Carleigh Hyser and Kristin Gotham after voting at the Johns Creek Environmental Campus. (ADRIANNE MURCHISON/AJC)
Mother and daughter, Carleigh Hyser and Kristin Gotham after voting at the Johns Creek Environmental Campus. (ADRIANNE MURCHISON/AJC)

Bonselaar noticed that poll workers did not clean machines or other areas, he said.

Teresa Cuellar said she arrived at 7a.m. and waited two and a half hours to vote at the campus precinct.

The semi-retiree said although the line wasn’t moving, she was nearly an hour and a half into her wait when a poll worker informed her and a group of voters that the voting machines were not working.

During the wait outside, poll workers bought out chairs for voters, Cuellar said, and some voters went inside the building to retrieve chairs to sit in.

Cuellar said she grew frustrated at the small room where only three to four voting machines were located for the long line of people waiting.

“There were three separate rooms for people to stand in to wait and the actual voting room was really small,” she said. “Seems like they would use one of those bigger rooms and have 10 to 15 machines. It wasn’t really a great set up when you have a line backed up like that.”

Cuellar said she also grew concerned that every voter didn’t wear a mask.

“It made me a was little uncomfortable,” she said.

7 p.m. update: Polling places across Georgia are closing at 7 p.m. ... except where they're not. All Fulton County precincts will remain open until 9 p.m. Select precincts in other metro Atlanta counties also will remain open for various periods because of problems earlier in the day.

You'll find the latest on which metro Atlanta counties have extended voting hours here.

6:53 update: Many metro Atlanta voters have contended with pouring rain as well as long lines. The line at King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna stretched around the blog at about 6:15 p.m.

The line at King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna stretched around the blog at about 6:15 p.m. (ERNIE SUGGS/AJC)
The line at King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna stretched around the blog at about 6:15 p.m. (ERNIE SUGGS/AJC)

6:34 p.m. update: 

An election protection group has asked a judge to require Gwinnett County to hold polls open until 10 p.m. at a dozen voting locations.

The group, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a demand letter than a number of locations opened today without all of their polling equipment. More details here.

6:28 p.m. update: DeKalb Superior Court Judge Tangela Barrie has signed an order approving a petition by the Board of Registration and Elections to extend voting hours for several polling places. For the following polling places, voting has been extended to the indicated times:

Narvie J. Harris Elementary, 3981 McGill Drive, Decatur—7:45 p.m.

Clarkston Community Center, 3701 College Ave., Clarkston—7:29 p.m.

Medlock Elementary School, 2418 Wood Trail Lane, Decatur—7:15 p.m.

Stephenson High School, 701 Stephenson Road, Stone Mountain—7:45 p.m.

Stephenson Middle School, 922 Stephenson Road, Stone Mountain—7:30 p.m.

Kittredge Magnet School, 1663 East Nancy Creek Drive NE, Atlanta—9:26 p.m.

Ray of Hope Christian Church, 2778 Snapfinger Road, Decatur—10:10 p.m.

5:39 p.m. update: All Fulton County precincts will remain open until 9 p.m. under an order issued by the county's Superior Court.

Here’s the statement just released by Fulton County:

At the request of the Fulton County Department of Registration & Elections, the Superior Court of Fulton County has issued an order extending voting hours today until 9 p.m. at all locations. Any voter in line at that time will be allowed to vote.

Beginning at 7 p.m., ballots will no longer be scanned but will be placed in provisional ballot envelopes, per O.C.G.A. 21-4-418(d).

Today is the first election in most poll workers in Fulton County and across Georgia operated the new election equipment introduced this year. While the majority of polling places operated smoothly, a number of sites experienced challenges with equipment throughout the day.

The extended hours will provide more time for any voters affected by these issues to cast their ballots tonight.

Metro Atlanta voters aren’t the only ones suffering problems at the polls. WRBL reports that a judge has extended Muscogee County voting until 9 p.m. because of confusion at two precincts. And WTOC reports that voting will be extended at 9 p.m. at some Chatham County precincts.

5:20 p.m. update: 

Two Gwinnett County precincts will be open past 7 p.m. after failing to open on time this morning. 
Beaver Ruin Baptist Church will stay open until 7:14 p.m. and Kanoheda Elementary School will stay open until 7:20 p.m. said Joe Sorenson, a spokesman for the county.

4:35 p.m. update: DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond has issued a statement ripping Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for a "failure of leadership" and calling for a state investigation of his office:

The Election Day issues relating to the use of state-purchased voting machines represent an attack on the democratic process. The Secretary of State’s office has alleged these issues resulted from a failure of county leadership. If there was a failure of leadership, it starts where the buck should stop, at the top. The eradication of any ‘learning curve’ rests squarely at the feet of the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his office. Therefore, I am calling on Governor Brian Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, and Speaker David Ralston to immediately launch a comprehensive, top-to-bottom investigation into voting issues, including the Secretary of State’s preparation for and administration of this election. It is the Secretary of State’s responsibility to train, prepare, and equip election staff throughout the state to ensure fair and equal access to the ballot box. Those Georgians who have been disenfranchised by the statewide chaos that has effected the voting system today in numerous DeKalb precincts and throughout the state of Georgia deserve answers.

Earlier today, Raffensperger’s office said it had opened an investigation of voting problems in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

4:29 p.m. update: Cobb County spokesman Ross Cavitt said 19 Cobb precincts will stay open until 8 p.m. "after various issues caused those precincts to delay opening at 7 a.m. this morning."

Anyone in line a 8 p.m. at the following precincts will be allowed to vote:

Addison 01

Austell 1A

Bells Ferry 04

Clarkdale 01

Cooper 01

Eastside 02

Elizabeth 01

Elizabeth 03

Mableton 01

Oregon 04

Oregon 05

Palmer 01

Powder Springs 1A

Powder Springs 2A

Powder Springs 3A

Riverside 01

Sewell Mill 03

Sope Creek 02

Sweetwater 02

4:17 update: The Metro Atlanta Chamber has issued a statement urging Georgia officials to resolve voting problems before the November election.

3:41 p.m. update: 

Gwinnett County said some polling places opened today without all the necessary equipment. But it said every voter at those locations was able to cast an emergency ballot.

“Gwinnett County Voter Registrations and Elections assures those voters that their ballots will be counted just like any other ballot cast today,” the county said on Twitter. “In addition, elections staff has delivered all of the equipment to those polling locations.”

At Duluth City Hall, Shannon Coulmbe, 26, kept the conversation about racial justice and equality front of mind when she pulled a ballot Tuesday.

“As a privileged white woman it’s important I use my voice to stand up and support what I believe in: Black Lives Matter, the environment and other important issues,” Coulmbe said.

Coulmbe had originally applied for an absentee ballot, but canceled it at the polling place in order to vote in person.

Though Cobb County has previously reported few problems, Channel 2 Action News’ Chris Jose spotted trouble at the Austell Community Center.

Cobb County Superior Court Judge Rob Leonard said he has filed an order for the precinct to stay open until 8 p.m.

3:05 p.m. update: A civil rights group is calling for polls to stay open late in metro Atlanta's four core counties after voters faced difficulties earlier in the day. 

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law threatened to go to court Tuesday if officials in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties don't hold precincts open.

"There were voters this morning who could not vote because their polling places closed or could not endure a wait of more than 2 hours to cast their ballot," said Kristen Clarke, president for the Lawyers' Committee. "The only way to right this wrong is to give people a longer opportunity to vote today."

Danielle Johnston, 30, had to wait for three hours and 45 minutes to cast her ballot at Parkside Elementary School precinct in Fulton County. She said the line did not move at all for at least 40 minutes, and after about an hour and a half, voters passed down that machines weren’t working.

When she finally reached the front of the line, Johnston said that the precinct had eight machines and one scanner. Only 103 people had voted in the nearly four hours before her. Johnston said poll workers never communicated with the voters in line, and that she was not offered a provisional ballot.

“This is insulting to our constitutional right to vote,” she said. “I don’t know what their excuse is this time.”

While Johnston and her boyfriend were able to wait in line to vote, she is aware that not everyone can do that.

“You want to talk about privilege, lucky for us we don’t have children and our jobs were very flexible, and we’re healthy,” she continued, “How is anyone expected to vote if they’re not healthy, or elderly, or have children?”

Dana Johnson said he his wife, singer Avery Sunshine, left their Southwest Atlanta home to be among the day’s first voters at the Fickett Elementary School precinct. They arrived at about 6:45 a.m. and were joined by about 100 people, he estimates.

Still, the couple wouldn’t cast their ballots until more than three hours later.

Johnson said poll workers told the amassed voters that “the systems were down” when the precinct was scheduled to open. It took roughly two hours, he said, before people were allowed to vote. Then after finally casting a ballot, Johnson said he was told the scanner that reads the paper ballot was down, making him unsure his vote actually counted.

“Polling managers were doing their best,” he said. “It seems like they weren’t provided what they needed.”

Johnson said seeing other voters in metro Atlanta vote without issue added to the frustration.

“It feels like it’s not by accident,” Johnson said. “Georgia of all places – especially with this last governor’s race -- should be extra careful and extra vigilant.”

Angela and Lindsay Freeman
Angela and Lindsay Freeman

Others had a better experience. Mother and daughter Angela and Lindsay Freeman said voting went smoothly at the Crosspointe Community Church precinct in Roswell. Few voters were in the precinct when they cast their ballot. The open space allowed people options in social distancing, Angela Freeman, a realtor, said.

“We’ve been living here 25 years and I don’t feel like it’s ever backed up here, she said. “This (precinct) is always easy.”

It was Lindsay Freeman’s first time voting. The 19-year-old is a rising sophomore at the University of South Carolina. Freeman said wanted to vote in person for her first time but might vote absentee in the future.

2:41 update: Cobb County reported relatively few voting problems by mid-day Tuesday.

Spokesman Ross Cavitt said several precincts will likely stay open past 7 p.m. after they had varying issues getting the polls open and running in the morning. A judge must approve those requests.

Cavitt said waiting times have been less than expected. He said many precincts are now reporting no waiting for those coming to vote.

“We have not had any systemic issues,” Cavitt said. “There have been problems that include slower-than-expected setup, internet issues at polling locations and minor equipment problems.”

Marsha Bacon, an East Cobb resident, had nothing but praise for the elections staff at St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church in Johnson Ferry Road. "It went like butter," she said. "That was the easiest (time) I've ever voted in my life." Bacon said she had no issues with the machines, and "felt very safe" with how the poll workers were keeping the areas cleaned for use.

1:45 p.m. update: 

The fight over who is responsible for today’s voting problems is heating up.
This afternoon Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he has launched an investigation of problems in Fulton and DeKalb counties. He called the situation there “unacceptable.”
“My office has opened an investigation to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election,” Raffensperger said.

“Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties,” he said. “But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote."

Some local officials say the secretary of state bears responsibility.

Steve Bradhsaw, the DeKalb commission's presiding officer, called the voting issues "a disgrace." Like many of his colleagues, he balked at the secretary of state's office blaming the problems on counties.

"It's astounding to me what an abdication of leadership that is, to push the ownership down to the counties," he said before Raffensperger issued his statement. "I was raised that if you mess up, fess up."

1:33 p.m. update: 

One person was injured Tuesday morning after being hit by a car near a voting location in Gwinnett County, authorities said. 
The incident happened near the Nett Church on Bethesda Church Road in Lawrenceville, officials said. Gwinnett records list the church as a polling location for today’s primary election in Georgia.
You can read more here.

Meanwhile, problems continued in Fulton County.

In southwest Atlanta, at the Joseph McGhee Tennis Center, a line stretched outside the door, down the sidewalk and nearly to the road at 12:40 p.m. Raynard Johnson, 60, who lives within walking distance said he had walked to the polling site three times so far Tuesday, waiting for lines to ease before he voted. He said in the morning, a poll worker informed the crowd that all but one voting machine was down. The poll worker said they had put in a call for technology assistance, but it took longer than anticipated to get them going. Johnson said by 12:45 pm six machines were working. As people waited in the hot sun, someone passed out doughnuts. A man worked on his laptop while sitting in a camp chair in line. “This should not be your test for November,” Johnson said.

A socially distanced line outside the Joseph McGhee Tennis Center in southwest Atlanta. (VANESSA MCCRAY/AJC)
A socially distanced line outside the Joseph McGhee Tennis Center in southwest Atlanta. (VANESSA MCCRAY/AJC)

Speaking to a group of reporters Tuesday afternoon outside Park Tavern, Fulton County Board of Commissioner Chairman Robb Pitts said the ongoing voting issues are a combination of things: fewer voting precincts, the coronavirus, protests, and absentee ballot issues.

“Obviously there are some problems, the lines are long and what we’re doing is trying to assess where the bottlenecks are,” he said in front of a line of voters that wrapped around the building. “There are a number of things that have happened. Everything that could happen or go wrong has gone wrong so far.”

Adding to that are the ongoing technical issues with the newer voting machines. He also stressed the need for more people and better-trained poll workers who can easily understand the newer technology.

Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann put the blame squarely on the county’s elections department but stopped short of blaming a specific person. “It’s another black eye for Fulton County,” she said.

Hausmann said she stood in line for 2 ½ hours to cast her ballots. Many of the voters she spoke to in line requested absentee ballots, but never received them. She also said equipment came late, some wasn’t charged and workers checking voters in weren’t clear about their instructions. “That’s not an equipment issue, that’s a training issue,” she said.

Pitts’ hope is to get the issues resolved before November, when there will likely be a larger voter turnout.

“Everyone can point fingers, but my goal is to get this right,” Pitts said.

Even as many metro Atlanta counties report problems, at least one smaller county reports all is well:

12:35 p.m.: Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has ordered an investigation of irregularities in Georgia's primary election, particularly in Fulton County.

“The sanctity of our elections — being free and fair — is the very foundation of our system of government,” said Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge. “Our elections must be efficient and voters must be confident that their votes will be properly counted.

Ralston said he heard of poll workers not being properly trained, voting equipment not working and absentee ballots not being received.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee will investigate the primary election and recommend changes.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said problems with voting equipment were caused by poll workers’ mistakes.

“So far we have no reports of any actual equipment issues,” said Gabriel Sterling, statewide implementation manager for the voting system. “We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment. While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training and failures of leadership.”

12:10 p.m.: Voting lines in some precincts have abated after a rough start on election day.

Anderson-Livsey Elementary School had a 47-minute delay this morning due to issues with machines, a poll worker confirmed. But by 11:30, it was smooth sailing at the polling place where lines stretched for four hours in 2018.

Stella Rowland, 50, was ready for a long line and was pleasantly surprised when she didn’t find one. She even called her brother and told him to come down to vote with her; he had applied for an absentee ballot but never received it, Rowland said.

“I thought I was going to see a whole big line but the process was fast, in and out in and out,” Rowland said. “I appreciate the social distancing measures. They have gloves and hand sanitizer and everything you need. The safety of the public is paramount.”

ajc.com

11:45 a.m.: At Cross Keys High School, volunteers passed out water bottles to a crowd of 100 voters lined up for hours outside the building.

Countless others left the line snaked around the building or never joined at all, as word spread the machines weren’t working and the precinct quickly ran out of the 20 provisional ballots.

Jonathan Banes, the precinct manager, said he’s tried repeatedly to troubleshoot the equipment but his PIN number won’t work. He pleaded with DeKalb elections officials for technical assistance and more provisional ballots.

Outside, frustrated voters waited for updates.

One man marched up and down the line after waiting for three hours, exclaiming “I can’t believe we can’t vote” before leaving.

Near the front of the line, 80-year-old Anita Heard had been waiting since around 6 a.m. to cast her ballot.

“What is going on in Georgia? We have been waiting for hours. This is ridiculous. This is unfair,” Heard said.

Robyn Martin, who runs a Pilates studio, expected to wait for hours. But she didn’t anticipate technical issues would bring voting to a standstill.

“I feel like I have to stay but I have to keep canceling clients,” she said, standing near the back of the line. “I’ve always voted in presidential races but in today’s climate, it’s important to vote local. My vote is important as ever.”

Aerialle Klein sounded equally determined.

“I’m not leaving until I cast a ballot,” she said. “This is voter suppression — I’m shaking just talking about this. But I’m staying. This is my civic duty. Something has to change.”

Voters wait in line at Cross Keys High School on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. JOHN SPINK / AJC
Voters wait in line at Cross Keys High School on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. JOHN SPINK / AJC

11:35 a.m.: Confusion surrounded the voting process at Barack Obama Elementary School in South Dekalb's Gresham Park, said Jennifer Aton, 32.

Alton arrived at 6:50 a.m. because she never received the absentee ballot she requested.

Her voting precinct had moved from a nearby church to the school, where voters were supposed to stand in two separate lines to different rooms based on their neighborhood. But poll workers did not tell voters there were two lines, and few paid attention to small posters telling them where to stand.

Poll workers shifted voters from one line to the other or one room to the other, which made voters appear to be cutting in line when they were not, Aton said.

By the time Alton got to the gym where she was to vote, she spotted seven people off to the side who did not want to leave. They said their votes did not go through.

“Nobody wanted to leave but no one could figure out what to do with them,” Alton said.

Voters wait in a long line that stretched around the Metropolitan Library Tuesday, June 9, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Voters wait in a long line that stretched around the Metropolitan Library Tuesday, June 9, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

11:28 a.m.: About 200 people were already in line when Joe Chiarella, 39, of Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood arrived at Parkside Elementary School at 7 a.m. He was still in line at 10:30 a.m.

Poll workers did not tell him why the wait was so long, Chiarella said.

One voter who arrived at 6:45 a.m. said it took three and a half hours for him to cast his ballot.

After a long wait, one voter returned to the line and delivered snacks and water to those still in line.

“I estimated (there were) about 200 people in line when I got here” Chiarella said. “This means we're voting at a rate of one person per minute on average.”

11:22 a.m.: A person with a "medical emergency" drove into a line of people waiting to vote at Bethesda United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville around 9 a.m.

One person was injured, and the building sustained minor damage.

11:05 a.m.: Voting at the Sandtown precinct in South Fulton was moving more smoothly, though some voters were still waiting in line.

South Fulton City Councilwoman Catherine Rowell said lines backed up when polls were supposed to open and election workers told voters that technology wasn’t working correctly.

A poll worker told Rowell that the problem was with an electronic counter to account for votes cast. Voting began in Sandtown by 8:15 a.m., more than an hour late, Rowell said.

“I’ve gotten reports all across this area that there were issues with voting,” she said. “Fulton County, just the Board of Elections didn’t do a good job, period.”

Smyrna resident Courtney Marshall wears a “Black Lives Matter” shirt while using the new electronic voting machine to cast her ballot at the Smyrna Community Center. ALYSSA POINTER / AJC
Smyrna resident Courtney Marshall wears a “Black Lives Matter” shirt while using the new electronic voting machine to cast her ballot at the Smyrna Community Center. ALYSSA POINTER / AJC

10:56 a.m. Beyonce's mother, Tina Knowles, took to Instagram to encourage voters to stay in line and make sure their votes are counted.

Knowles wrote that some voters have had to wait for three hours and still haven’t been able to cast their ballots.

“Please don’t give up,” Knowles wrote. “Vote like your life depends on it because it does!!!”

10:33 a.m.: Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann said it took her 2 hours and 40 minutes on Tuesday morning to vote at the Johns Creek Environmental Campus

She said she’d never seen a line so long — even for a presidential election.

Hausmann said poll workers called for technical help but weren’t able to get through. A long-time poll manager couldn’t figure out how to insert the cards that record votes into the machines, she said.

It was upside down, which took poll workers an hour to figure out. She said she’s hearing about similar problems at precincts throughout the county.

“I’m so frustrated with this process,” said Hausmann, who represents North Fulton.

Hausmann said she hoped the $15 million that the county budgeted to run elections would be enough for a smooth process.

“What would have been the magic number? We gave them everything they asked for,” she said.

When asked what could be done before the November election, Hausmann said it’s highly unusual to have a change in management in the middle of an election season.

“We have management problems, I don’t know how you say otherwise,” she said.

10:25 a.m.: Problems with Georgia's new voting computers plagued the state's primary election Tuesday, leading to lines and voters leaving without casting their ballots.

Poll workers said they had difficulties turning on voter check-in computers, encoding voter access cards and installing touchscreens.

9:30 a.m.: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former Mayor Kasim Reid said voters are experiencing widespread problems at the polls.

At the Sandtown Recreation Center, voting machines weren't working and the line stretched down the street, Bottoms wrote on Twitter.

9:17 a.m.: Voters were having to rely on paper provisional ballots in some precincts where voting machines weren't working.

But some polling places, like Cross Keys High, ran out of provisional ballots.

“We are having technical issues and we don’t have access to any provisional ballots. I can’t give anyone here an ETA on when they can vote,” said Jonathan Banes, the precinct manager.

Barnes said the precinct had less than two dozen provisional ballots to hand out.

“They told us none of the machines are working. The provisional ballots are long gone,” said Markisah Steele, a voter waiting at Cross Keys. “It tells me the elections are rigged. This is blatant voter suppression. How are these machines not working?”

At Central Park Recreation Center, voting equipment wasn’t working, causing Leondra Martin to leave after waiting for nearly an hour and a half. She said poll workers had been calling for help since 5 a.m.

"The volunteers are a little confused," Martin said.
Martin are others were voting with provisional paper ballots until the issue was fixed.
In the time of COVID-19, she said she didn't feel comfortable licking the provisional ballot, but she had to do her civic duty.

9:10 a.m.: A poll worker told voters waiting in line at the Hoyt Smith Recreation Center that voting machines were delivered to the wrong address, said Melanie Foster of Hapeville.

Foster said she got in line at 7:25 a.m. and was still waiting more than an hour and a half later.

Voters were told they’d have to use paper ballots. The process was so poorly run that she and other voters in line worried their votes would not be counted.

“I just don’t want my ballot to end up in a dumpster,” Foster said as she waited outside. “We are all concerned.”

Voters waited in line at the Hoyt Smith Recreation Center on Tuesday.
Voters waited in line at the Hoyt Smith Recreation Center on Tuesday.

9:05 a.m.: The elections official in charge of implementing Georgia's new voting system, Gabrel Sterling, said most problems are occurring in Fulton County. Some election workers tried to insert voter cards upside-down.

Sterling blamed the county’s elections management for the problems.

9 a.m.: Long lines during early voting forced Samuel Obukwelu, 44, and his wife to vote Tuesday.

They tried to vote three times before election day, at Garden Hills Elementary School and Sandy Springs Public Library, but the waits were extensive each time.

On Tuesday, it took them 40 minutes to vote at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

“It was better, but it was still a long wait to vote,” he said. “We normally vote but in November, but in the main elections. But with all that’s going on, we feel like we have to be a more active participant. I understand that change happens on a local level.”

8:55 a.m.: The line grew quickly when polls opened at Suder Elementary School in Jonesboro.

But unlike some precincts across metro Atlanta, voters got in and out of the polls quickly, said Steven Astriab of Jonesboro.

“This is the first time I’ve voted in person since 2004 because I can’t stand real long,” Astriab said. “I would have voted absentee but I got confused whether we got our ballots in the mail or in person.”

He said it was worth the trouble. “It’s important to vote,” he said. “You have to vote what you believe in and for whom you think will do the best job.”

Steven Astriab voted in Jonesboro on Tuesday, where lines formed but moved quickly.
Steven Astriab voted in Jonesboro on Tuesday, where lines formed but moved quickly.

8:50 a.m.: Several precincts in Gwinnett County had few voting machines, leaving voters waiting with no end in sight, said state Rep. Jasmine Clark.

“Voters are livid or leaving. Voters are being asked to vote provisional but are not being reassured that their vote will be counted tonight if they do,” Clark said.

8:45 a.m: About 140 voters at Central Park Recreation Center were being told they'll have to vote with paper provisional ballots because voting machines weren't working.

Fulton elections head Richard Barron has said there will be one tech for every three precinct to help fix issues like this on election day. This precinct has 2,895 registered voters.

8:24 a.m.: State Rep. William Boddie says Fulton County is in a "complete meltdown."
"My phone hasn't stopped ringing. We're having issues throughout the county," said the East Point Democrat. "Did they not know this was going to be a voting day for months? Fulton County's Board of Elections can't be let off the hook this time. It's inexcusable."

8:20 a.m.: All eight voting machines at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain are down, said Lila Hicks, who is waiting in line.

“It’s frustrating. No one knows why. It doesn’t make any sense that they’re all broken. I’m outraged,” she said. “I plan on staying. My vote needs to be counted.”

8:15 a.m.: Precincts opened late at several voting locations in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties, according to the voting rights group Fair Fight Action.

Some voting locations struggled to start new voting computers, including touchscreens and voting check-in computers, the group said. Other precincts didn’t receive equipment they needed until well after polls were supposed to open.

Voters lined up at C.T. Natatorium before 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
Voters lined up at C.T. Natatorium before 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

8:05 a.m.:  Problems with voting machines slowed down voters at the C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center in the Adamsville neighborhood of Atlanta.

Many voters wore masks and several brought their own chairs, anticipating a long wait. A half dozen small tents are set up outside to provide shelter and shade as residents waited.

Bernice Smith, 78, showed up in a mask at C. T. Nanatorium around 6 a.m. to vote and was among the first in line. She finally voted and left just before 8 a.m.

Smith said voting on the new machines was “terrible.”

She was given a paper ballot, but then the machines started again.

“It started working again, it stopped working,” she said.

About 20 people waited in line at Best Friend Park in Gwinnett County.
About 20 people waited in line at Best Friend Park in Gwinnett County.

7:30 a.m.: Selam Ghebru, 30, was the first voter at Best Friend Park in Gwinnett County on Tuesday morning.

She was prepared with a tech-friendly glove, hand sanitizer and a mask, and made sure her father, who joined her, did the same.
Ghebru said she was relieved her fellow voters respected social distancing guidelines in line, noting everyone she saw was wearing a mask.

She and her parents all applied for absentee ballots but never received them in the mail, so they all chose to vote in person.

Voters at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center.
Voters at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center.

7:25 a.m.: About 20 early birds lined up at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center to cast ballots, including first-time voter Morgan Brown.

“I decided I’m absolutely going this year. With the pandemic and George Floyd, I said ‘Morgan, you have to.’ So I went online to make sure I’m registered. I just feel like it’s my societal duty and privilege that I get to.”

7:20 a.m.: About 300 voters lined up at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park, preparing for a significant wait to vote. Many voters said they requested absentee ballots but never received them.

Candace Tucker, the first voter in line, said she arrived at 5:30 a.m. so she could vote in-person after her absentee ballot application wasn’t processed by Fulton County’s elections office.

She said poll workers struggled for a few minutes to get the state’s new voting machines started, but she liked them once they were working.

“It was a little rocky at first,” said Tucker, who works in higher education. “Otherwise it was very easy. It was a lot easier to read. It was large and bright”

7 a.m.: Voters will be spaced 6 feet apart. Few people will be allowed to vote at a time. Some precincts have closed. Voters will wait for touchscreens to be wiped down to limit the spread of germs.

But many voters are undeterred. Over 1.2 million people have already voted, three-quarters of them with absentee-by-mail ballots, allowing them to avoid human contact at the polls.

Voters will decide on many candidates, from president to county sheriff. The ballot also includes races for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the Georgia General Assembly.

The primary launches Georgia's new voting equipment, which adds a paper ballot backup to the state's voting process for the first time in 18 years. The $104 million voting system features touchscreens attached to printers that create paper ballots. 

Precinct locations and sample ballots can be viewed online on the state's My Voter Page at www.mvp.ga.sos.gov.

Voters who received absentee ballots but haven't yet returned them can deliver them to drop boxes set up across metro Atlanta. Absentee ballots will be counted if they're received by 7 p.m.

Precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Voter resources

>> Voter guide for June 9 primary and general election

>> Where to find ballot drop boxes in metro Atlanta

>> How Georgia's new voting machines work

>> Georgia's primary: How to vote in an unprecedented election