Georgia sued over long voting lines

Voters lined up in the rain June 6 to vote early at Garden Hills Elementary School in Atlanta for the Georgia primary. Voting in the primary was plagued by long lines, spurring a lawsuit filed Thursday against the state seeking court intervention to help elections run more smoothly.  JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Voters lined up in the rain June 6 to vote early at Garden Hills Elementary School in Atlanta for the Georgia primary. Voting in the primary was plagued by long lines, spurring a lawsuit filed Thursday against the state seeking court intervention to help elections run more smoothly. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday asks the courts to step in to prevent hours-long lines in Georgia’s presidential election.

The lawsuit, brought by the Democratic Party and three voters, says a judge should require more polling places, better-trained poll workers and emergency paper ballots.

The legal action comes after coronavirus-related precinct closures, social-distancing requirements and difficulties operating voting machines led to lines in Georgia’s June 9 primary, especially in Fulton County and other metro counties.

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“The issues we saw in Georgia in the primary cannot be repeated in November,” said U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This is a problem with a clear solution, and there is no reason elections officials should not take the reasonable steps to make sure Georgians don’t stand in line for hours to vote.”

Election officials have already said they plan to add voting locations and poll workers, but the lawsuit contends that problems running elections require court intervention to correct.

Besides improved staffing, election officials are also making several other changes to prepare for the presidential election, including assigning technicians to every polling place, delivering voting machines in advance and speeding up voter check-ins.

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said state election officials have provided data to counties to help them decide where additional polling places and voting equipment might be needed.

“We will work around the clock from here through the elections — under the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic — to ensure that all eligible Georgia voters are informed fully about any polling place changes, that we have enough precincts and poll workers, and that we do everything possible to minimize lines.”

The lawsuit said Georgia voters have faced some of the longest wait times in the country in recent years, in part because of polling place closures and increased numbers of voters.

County election officials closed 214 precincts across the state between 2012 and 2018, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution count. Meanwhile, the number of registered voters increased by about 1 million. There are now over 7.4 million registered voters in Georgia.

Joining the DSCC in filing the suit were the Democratic Party of Georgia, two Fulton County voters and a Cobb County voter.